Above maybe every other player on the roster, Vance McDonald has been hyped up more than anyone else for 2018. His comfort in the system, something he didn’t have after getting dealt to Pittsburgh late last preseason, and the assumption new OC Randy Fichtner will get him more involved than what Todd Haley did.
That is, if he can overcome his biggest obstacle: injuries.
That’s been the bugaboo throughout his career and followed him from San Francisco to the Steel City. A back injury in September. A knee injury in October. A bum ankle in November. Because of all that, McDonald played in just 10 games and was often limited, being eased back into the offense before another injury knocked him back out.
Some of that, as injuries generally are, is bad luck. But some of that, and McDonald even admits it, is part of his play style. In a Q&A session on the team website, McDonald says playing as hard as he does creates those injuries.
“I guess it’s the way I play the game,” McDonald said. “You can watch film and see how some guys tiptoe around that max speed. I just slam it all the way down. I am full speed doing everything I do. It’s led to injuries. Each one can wear you down.”
There’s no questioning the talent McDonald has, the vertical threat no tight end on the roster could give like him. And it’s flashed on tape. Four of his 14 catches went for at least 15 yards last season. It’s about him staying healthy to show that and make that production sustainable, a boon for an offense looking for a downfield seam threat. Not to mention having a clear #1 tight end, something lacking in this offense since Heath Miller walked away.
Unfortunately, some injuries have already crept up to start this year off. As Dave Bryan wrote about last month, McDonald missed at least one practice with an unknown injury. Hopefully that was minor and precautionary and he can enter camp fully healthy.