ACL injuries ravaging NFL rosters

No sport is more synonymous with injury than football. And no injury strikes fear into players, coaches, fans and the teams that pay the salaries like the torn anterior cruciate ligament. Located at the center of the knee joint, the ACL connects the tibia (shinbone) and femur (thigh bone). And when a player tears his, that’s the end of his season.

Well, we are all of one preseason game into the season, and already the NFL has seen a rash of torn ACLs in training camps, taking out some pretty big names and putting pretty big holes in contenders’ lineups before they have taken even one snap in a preseason game.

With today’s medicine, there is hope. But first let’s look at some of the big names to go down with torn ACLs already, and the impact their absences could have:

• Bryan Bulaga, OT, Packers (Leaving Aaron Rodgers without the man slotted to protect his blind side.)

• Jeremy Maclin, WR, Eagles (Taking perhaps Philadelphia’s best receiver out of the lineup in coach Chip Kelly’s new high-paced offense.) Here’s a post-op photo posted by Maclin on Tuesday:

• Dan Koppen, C, Broncos (Denver, which entered the season as many people’s favorite to make it out of the AFC to the Super Bowl, now has to find a new man to snap the ball to Peyton Manning.)

• Chris Culliver, CB, 49ers (The San Francisco DB made headlines for anti-gay comments during Super Bowl week; now the team is down a nickel back in an attempt to return to the big game.)

And it doesn’t stop there. These players are also done with a torn ACL:

• Danario Alexander, WR, Chargers

• Arrelious Benn, WR, Eagles

• Joe Morgan, WR, Saints

Just think of the Eagles. Two receivers out for the season already. A third receiver, Riley Cooper, is embroiled in controversy surrounding his racial slur. And the rest of the receiving corps is comprised primarily of undrafted rookies. Oh yeah, they also lost a linebacker to a torn ACL in late July, too.

While this season appears to be a lost cause for these guys, at least the last 12 months give them and their clubs hope for 2014.

Last season at this time, one of the big stories in the NFL was whether Adrian Peterson could come back from a torn ACL suffered in December of 2011 (meaning he had nearly five months of recovery time less than this preseason’s wounded will get). Peterson only went on to turn in one of the greatest seasons of all time, rushing for more than 2,000 yards and winning league MVP honors.

In last season’s playoffs, just seven months ago, rookie QB sensation Robert Griffin III suffered a torn ACL in a loss to Seattle. Reports from Redskins camp so far this preseason have been rather encouraging, with RG3 taking part in drills, though he may sit out all preseason games and he has been told he will wear a knee brace this season.

Jets All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis tore his ACL in Week 3 last season. Tampa Bay was so confident in his recovery that the Bucs traded two picks — including a first-rounder — to New York to acquire Revis, then gave him a $96 million contract.

And the Bucs are optimistic Revis will be ready for Week 1.

So at least players who tear ACLs in the summer of 2013 have history — and technology — going for them.

The next big question: Who will go down next?