Reaction to David Ojabo injury raises questions, reveals truths

USA TODAY Sports

On Friday, Michigan linebacker David Ojabo had his draft stock crater when he suffered a torn Achilles tendon during the latest phase of the multi-month “job interview” known as the pre-draft process. As noted by former NFL cornerback/return specialist Bucky Brooks of NFL Media, the reaction to Ojabo’s injury by the people in attendance was troubling. And, in my view, telling.

“I know the NFL is a cold business but watching the lack of concern or empathy from the scouts, coaches and observers following David Ojabo’s injury bugs me,” Brooks tweeted. “Perhaps someone should’ve checked on him instead of grabbing the ball and moving to the next drill. Just a thought.”

The video, attached to Brooks’s tweet, says it all. Ojabo goes down, and there’s no reaction. Nothing. Instead, someone strolls out to retrieve the ball that Ojabo dropped, like Paul Crewe at the end of The Longest Yard (both versions).

It’s nothing personal against Ojabo. That’s how they feel about every prospect. The only difference between Ojabo and players currently on teams is that they are currently on teams. If Ojabo had been on a team when he collapsed in obvious distress, someone would have rushed to him, not because they truly care about the person but because he’s a tangible asset whose contractual rights are owned by the franchise.

Whether on teams or not, players are interchangeable parts in a football machine. If one breaks, remove it and move on to the next. And if a part breaks in the process of selecting parts for the various football machines, cast it aside and focus on the rest of the new parts.

This isn’t a commentary on whether it’s right or wrong. You can, and will, come to your own conclusion on that. It’s an assessment of how it is. And it’s nothing new. Teams routinely remove broken or ineffective parts from the football machine, replacing them with others. Teams annually screen the parts to be added to 32 football machines, through a process of calling dibs on those parts, without regard to whether those specific parts want to be in wedged into that specific football machine.

The parts are conditioned to accept these realities. They have no choice. It’s the only way to play football in the NFL. It’s the only way to get paid for doing so.

Of course, once that happens, fans will resent what they perceive to be some sort of lottery prize received by the players, for which there’s no price to pay beyond the ticket. The physical, mental, and emotional toll gets ignored by the people who simply want to be entertained by the battle of the football machines.

That’s fine, but at some point there needs to be concern and empathy for the players. For the human beings who are the players.

It’s one of the focal points of Playmakers, from the introduction (which you can read for free at Amazon) and on. The football machines and those who cheer them on all too often gloss over the basic humanity of the players. When someone says “next man up,” the necessarily implication is “last man out!” That’s exactly what happened to David Ojabo on Friday.

Scrape him up, move him out, and let’s get back to screening new parts for our impressive football machines.

Football is family. They love to say it.

Football isn’t family. Football is business. They say “football is family” because it’s good for business to say “football is family.”

Maybe it would be even better for business if football really was family.

39 responses to “Reaction to David Ojabo injury raises questions, reveals truths

  1. This stuff begins in youth football. They start the “This is a family!” stuff from day 1. Then it’s $500 and/or you have to volunteer X amount of hours selling tickets, food, helping out etc…it’s a business disguised as a family.

  2. No One is forced to go thru the NFL employment process. The up side is that it can lead them to jobs that pay millions of dollars to play a game.

    There are thousands upon thousands of available “regular” jobs available. No one is forcing them to try and play in the NFL…..

  3. Well said. I disagree with a lot of the opinions posted, but this right here is spot on.

  4. Not too much unlike the Roman coliseum days; one gladiator goes down and they cart him off to be replaced by another.

  5. unless the scouts are trained first responder, they should stay back. If the training staff didn’t come out in due time they should be fired.

  6. Best of luck to David Ojabo in his recovery. I’m currently recovering/rehabbing from an Achilles tear & surgery back in mid-January,

    As for the coldness of the video clip, it’d be nice to see a minute or two and not just seconds after the injury to see how the scene played out

  7. This is true. Prospects would be wise to decline the offer to play professional football and make their fortune in another area of endeavor.

  8. Well, in Dallas football really is family there and it’s terrible for business

  9. no one is forcing them to play. however, the pro workout days are pointless. you have all the film on the player already

  10. sparke40 says:
    March 20, 2022 at 8:44 am
    unless the scouts are trained first responder, they should stay back. If the training staff didn’t come out in due time they should be fired.
    —————————————————————————————
    The point here was taking a moment to show some empathy not provide first responder care . The training staff did get there quickly so it looks like both points you made are incorrect .

  11. If you want to spend a lot of money on a car you should at least want to take it out and test drive it to see how it feels. Same thing here if you’re going to spend MILLIONS on a player you at least want to see what he can do with an audience around.
    Looking at film sometimes it’s not the same as test driving it yourself in person.

  12. Interesting perspective but the reality is the competitive nature of the game is what fuels its success. Those in attendance had a job to do and they had no way of knowing the severity of the injury as it occurred. A argument could be made that talent evaluation of draft prospects is horribly inefficient with first rounders being beat out by UDFAs. The players also exhibit the cold reality of competition as they continue to risk players health and career (even their own)by leveling dangerous helmet to helmet collisions. Competition and emotions are intertwined, a positive result is often the application, balance and control of those emotions.

  13. There’s probably a protocol in place so that scouts, coaches and ballboys don’t suddenly become part of some liability. If the clip had been extended, it would have shown medical coming in to tend to him. That 10 second post didn’t show the whole event.

  14. Risk vs benefit. Ojabo could have declined his pro day workout and have been fine. Like Bowl games, these Pro Days will become only for the fringe players, as they should.

  15. Nah. Of course I feel bad for the guy. But this is a business where this guy could make literally tens of millions of dollars for playing a game. Of course that goes away if he can’t perform on the field. Empathy can come from his friends and family. You can’t have it both ways. You want that much cash to play a game, you have to expect to be treated like an asset. Life in the big city.

  16. Guy tearing his Achilles non contact at pro day? Dudes probably not an nfl player. Good to know

  17. I don’t know why these players continue work outs at pro days if they already participated in the combine and performed well. There is enough tape to secure a nice spot in the draft order & get paid, versus pushing it & risking an unforseen injury like this. Hopefully the young man recovers quickly from this and can end up having a long career.

  18. AND…..How is he (or any of these fine prospects) ever going to be able to force himself upon women without consequences if he doesnt get rewarded with a big NFL contract? D Watson should really have a symposium and school these youngsters.

  19. If he gets drafted by the Giants, trainer Ronnie Barnes would treat him right…

  20. So the NFL is just like the rest of our jobs… you fall short? You get replaced. This is just real life

  21. 1.This player already had a 3 year job interview at Michigan..and don’t tell me he got a free education when most of his time was practicing and lifting weights
    2.He went to a major school so the tape shows him playing against other top prospects
    3. The Nfl should have to pay for an insurance policy for all of these “ interviews “ bas d on their projected draft status and future income they would earn
    4.I never want to hear negativity about a player declining to play in ANY bowl game his final year

  22. It is a combination of a meat market and high performance car show for a player to try to get a team to give him the most money he can get.

  23. Lots of businesses don’t care about their employees and the minimum salaries are a lot less than $660,000 a year.

  24. Got a free college degree didn’t he? Plan B it is. Failure to not have one is on him.

  25. badthing03 says:
    March 20, 2022 at 8:35 am
    No One is forced to go thru the NFL employment process. The up side is that it can lead them to jobs that pay millions of dollars to play a game.

    There are thousands upon thousands of available “regular” jobs available. No one is forcing them to try and play in the NFL….
    ===========================================
    Absolutely right, Florio.

    And here’s a perfect example of the lack of empathy that permeates sports and society today.

  26. The truth is half the people in that practice/showcase are more worried about their own personal standing then ever helping out a fallen player. The NFL is full of grifters who will do anything to hold on or rise up the latter. Are their good people in the NFL? Yes, are there lots of tools, yes! Don’t tell me those scouts don’t look down on the athletes they are evaluating and determining the future of. It’s all about power and not looking weak, those scouts chose to be pathetic in that moment, not because their miserable people, but so worried about holding on to their pathetic existences in the NFL. Tell me I’m wrong.

  27. Back in December of 2014 Oregon CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu was the #1 rated CB as a senior when he suffered an ACL injury and dislocated his knee during practice. His family had taken out a disability insurance policy with International Specialty Insurance for $3M prior to his senior season to protect against loss of draft status due to injury. Ekpre-Olomu fell from the 1st round all the way down to the 7th round due to his injury and collected the $3M on his disability insurance policy.

    David Ojabo had a nice Combine showing that cemented his 1st round draft status, having done that he should have either withdrawn from Michigan’s Pro Day or secured an insurance policy similar to that of Ekpre-Olomu to protect his potential earning power in the NFL. Given the fact that he was a 1-year wonder at Michigan, that Combine showing should have been enough, why take unnecessary risks when you basically had 1 great season in college?

    Not sure who advised him on this but it’s not rocket science. As for the Football Is Family line, it should be amended to Football Is A Family of Businesses. These are high-stakes and these players want to earn those millions. There’s been talk of compensating players for Combine participation, I second that. But sound judgment should be employed if a player has a great Combine showing and does not need to risk injury at his Pro Day.

  28. Here’s hoping this young man heals quickly and returns to full strength. His is quite a story, and he is for SURE deserving of a great contact with someone. Great guy!!!

  29. Back in the 80s, Pat Summerrall during a broadcast predicted that stadiums for NFL games would be empty if hard hits and physical football wasnt allowed. Some athletes overtrain and get hurt without getting hit. If the NFL keeps regulating less hitting or defense, will these younger fans keep going or wathching on tv ?

  30. During a past CBA negotiating session Tex Schramm said to Gene Upshaw,”What you guys don’t get is that we’re the ranchers and you’re the cattle, and we can ALWAYS get more cattle.”. Not much has changed.

  31. “The physical, mental, and emotional toll gets ignored by the people who simply want to be entertained by the battle of the football machines.”

    More accurately, the “people who want to be entertained” know that every player on every team is set for life financially if they choose to be, after only a few years of work. They know the guys they’re watching each won the lottery to an extent that 99.9% of the fans never will.

    And they see the headlines every day about player X demanding more, refusing to play until they are guaranteed more, or refusing to play unless they get to go somewhere else. And they see the contrast to their own lives, where they work much harder than any NFL player for far less, and their choice is to toe the line or starve.

    So while human empathy should always be the goal, the NFL is making its own bed with its insatiable greed. Owners, executives, players, they’re all ravenous for more, more, more. They constantly scour for more and bigger pies to divide and fight over who gets the bigger slices. Charge more for tickets, charge more for food and parking and merchandise, charge more for TV services that allow fans to watch, get in on the gambling racket, more, more, more, more, more.

    Everyone involved in this game is the 1% in society. And everywhere outside this game, people are suffering in much more significant ways. People in the NFL may want to realize they’re lucky it isn’t torches and pitchforks time for the wealthy, yet, and be grateful for what they have.

  32. Most corporations aren’t much better.

    We are all disposable cogs in the system.

  33. Stafford’s wife would have helped him. Stafford himself? Not so much.

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