There’s a certain kind of grotesque moment that only football can provide its fans: that airless period where 60,000 people sit in silence because they fear they just watched someone die. These are moments where you see the sausage being made. Usually, it’s spinal injuries, which lead to that strange tradition of players lifting their thumbs if they’re able to move as they’re carted off the field, as if a human being struggling to lift a thumb was somehow a good thing. Yesterday, in Oakland, the Jets and the poor souls stuck in the Coliseum had a similar experience: They watched Leon Washington, one of the Jets’ best, most popular players, have his leg snapped in half.
How bad was it? Pretty bad.
Washington fractured his right fibula on his first carry, one of those sickening plays that live forever in the minds of football players. His lower leg snapped in a pile-up of bodies and, according to teammates, the broken bone pierced the skin. The compound fracture was later confirmed by a person with knowledge of the injury.
“I could see blood spurting out,” one player said. “I’ve never seen anything like that before.”
Washington is obviously out for the season, and his career could be in the balance as well. (After all, he needs that leg.) The Jets won 38–0, but that’s the type of thing you’re not supposed to worry about this morning. You’re supposed to worry about Washington’s health and well-being. There will be much hand-wringing and concern about how it’s “just a game” and “the players, they’re human beings.”
At least until tomorrow, when it’s time to start preparing for the Dolphins game at Giants Stadium on Sunday. Then you are to forget any of this ever happened. And you are to forget that if Washington is unable to play again, the Jets can just cut him and not pay him, leaving him to figure out what to do with the rest of his life on his own. You are to forget all of that. And you will.