The first rule of NFL training camps is to stay healthy. Already, several teams have broken it.
All kinds of nicks and bruises are common during the long preseason, which includes about twice as many exhibition games as teams need. Coaches, GMs, players and fans accept those annoyances as a necessary evil of the business.
Yet the major injuries, which can destroy a season, are never avoided.
This week's example is Cleveland's defense, which lost its leader, linebacker Jamir Miller, on Saturday with a torn Achilles' tendon. He's done for the season.
''He had such high expectations,'' Browns coach Butch Davis said. ''He'd gone to the Pro Bowl and you want to come back with a very good year. You can imagine how crushed he was.''
And how crushed the Browns could be. Davis is putting together what looks like a strong defense, with Miller a centerpiece, the most irreplaceable piece.
''We're going to overcome it,'' Davis said. ''We're going to find somebody who will step up and we're going to play well. Our expectations are not going to diminish because Jamir is not there.''
The expectations might not, but the results probably will.
Cleveland has been through this before. A year ago, defensive end Courtney Brown, the 2000 No. 1 overall draft pick, hurt his right knee in the team's final exhibition game. He missed the first 11 regular-season games and was not a factor.
Seattle, which re-signed quarterback Trent Dilfer and promoted him over last year's starter, Matt Hasselbeck, now must change direction after Dilfer hurt his knee. Hasselbeck is back as No. 1 and Dilfer is sidelined, perhaps until October, taking his 15-game winning streak with him.
That's hardly the way the Seahawks want to go into their first season in the revamped NFC West, where St. Louis and San Francisco reside.
In Denver, Terrell Davis is hurting once more. The Broncos are trapped when it comes to Davis: He needs the preseason work to stay sharp, but he is so injury-prone that any work he gets endangers him.
An MRI exam on Davis' left knee, that swelled during workouts, didn't reveal any damage. No timetable was given for how long Davis will be sidelined.
Considering Davis' uncertainty, it's no wonder the Broncos drafted running back Clinton Portis in the second round.
Last summer, the defending champion Baltimore Ravens lost their most important offensive player, running back Jamal Lewis, to a wrecked knee. Baltimore never got its ground game going and was handled easily in the playoffs by Pittsburgh.
The Eagles might have matched that even before training camp began this year when Correll Buckhalter, expected to be their top runner, tore up his knee.
Not only the glamour positions are hit by preseason health problems. The Ravens lost offensive lineman Leon Searcy for the 2001 season because of a torn triceps tendon in his left arm. He also missed all of 2000 because of a right quadriceps injury.
Tony Boselli was Jacksonville's star tackle and generally considered the finest blocker in the game. But he never recovered from a preseason shoulder problem last year, and was let go in the expansion draft to Houston.
Guess what! Boselli is sidelined now, as well.
Generally, NFL coaches avoid using their stars very much in the preseason. Often, they sit out the first exhibition game, play a little in the second and a bit more in the third. By the end of the preseason, the big names are gearing up for the real thing and rarely see much action in the exhibition finale.
But, at some point, those players have to get on the field. While a vast majority of them survive camp, it's the ones who don't that everyone remembers.
Perhaps if the league cut the number of preseason games in half -- an unlikely scenario considering the profits those games bring -- more stars would remain healthy. And while the endless offseason workouts help cohesiveness and conditioning, they also provide more opportunities for mishaps.
Of course, there are those who will argue there are benefits to preseason injuries. Just ask the St. Louis Rams about losing Trent Green in 1999 and having to turn to some guy named Kurt Warner.
Barry Wilner is the national football writer for The Associated Press. He can be reached at BWilner@ap.org.
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