No matter how many things work in your favor over the course of time, not everything is going to play out the way that you intend. Trai Turner is a physically gifted, accomplished, and wealthy man, but he recognizes that his recent history has put him at a disadvantage, which resulted in him being released, in the first place, and later settling four a one-year, $3 million deal.
A five-time Pro Bowler over the course of his first seven seasons, the first six with the Carolina Panthers, Turner has had a bit of an injury history over the course of his career, liable to miss a few games a season, but he missed a lot of time last season with a groin injury. He also had a recent history of knee and ankle injuries, but of a more minor nature.
“Last year was a good bit of adversity for me, but I’ve been blessed when I’ve been able to be in the league going on eight seasons”, he recently told Jim Rome. “I’ve been able to go to five Pro Bowls, and I’ve been able to stay primarily healthy for the most part. That’s something I pride myself on”.
I suspect that comment may raise a few eyebrows, given that he has missed at least three games in each of the past four seasons, and in five of his seven total seasons, but it makes sense from his perspective. And this recent groin injury was the most problematic, long-term injury he’s dealt with, so I can understand why he would reject the injury-prone label. At the same time, the injury was something new to him.
“It happens. It’s a part of the game, so I just took it in stride”, he said, after missing seven games in 2020. “It didn’t go the way I wanted it to go, but I’m just glad I have this opportunity to put on tape what I want to put on tape and actually be out there and feel good, I feel healthy, and I just want to stay healthy and do what I need to do on the field”.
Turner originally signed a four-year, $45 million contract extension with the Panthers in 2017, of which he earned about $35 million. The Los Angeles Chargers acquired him via trade last season, but they opted to release him this offseason rather than pay him around $10 million.
That move came early on as teams around the league were looking for ways to get compliant against a non-compliant cap that dropped about $15 million from the previous season, the largest drop in the history of the salary cap, and which put teams on a bind, and pricy veterans on the street.
He remained unsigned until late last month, and perhaps only sealed a deal for what he got because the Steelers were between a rock and a hard place. They’d just learned that David DeCastro would need surgery on his ankle, and wasn’t even sure if he wanted to continue playing after getting that operation done. They needed his cap space, so they waived him with a Non-Football Injury designation and used the savings to sign Turner as his replacement.