CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 11: Julius Peppers #90 of the Chicago Bears rushes against Sam Baker #72 of the Atlanta Falcons at Soldier Field on September 11, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Falcons 30-12. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
For many moons, we've heard that Sam Baker's back was a factor in his disastrous 2011. We've even heard that back issues have been crippling his strength and talents since he was drafted. That raises its own set of questions, but whatever.
Those of you who subscribe to this theory will be thrilled to know that Baker has declared himself healthy, at long last. With an off-season to recuperate from his back woes of last year, he's better. Just ask him.
“It feels good,” he said. “I was able to take the offseason and rehab my back. I feel like my back is healthy.”
So obviously, on the face of it, this is great news. Let's dive a little deeper.
If Baker's main issue all these years has been a chronically balky back, then you would expect him to improve in 2012. You would not be remiss to do so, because back injuries can definitely change the way you play the game of football. Especially at left tackle.
So let's take this optimistic view a little further. The Falcons stuck with Baker because they know the back has been an issue forever and was never worse than it was last year, and they do think that through treatment and rest he's doing better this season. They believe that from a natural talent standpoint, Baker's the best left tackle they have, at least until Lamar Holmes develops further. That means he's the starter for 2012, and they expect him to be a good one. I'd love for this all to be true.
There's only two problems with this scenario, of course, and Daniel Cox can't mention either of them because he's writing for the flagship.
- Back issues are often to always chronic. While Baker's back may feel good right now, what's going to happen during the season? There's no guarantee the same problems won't flare up again.
- It seems awfully simplistic to blame all of his issues on back problems. Baker has had two seasons (though admittedly not full ones) where he was just a subpar left tackle. I don't see how a few months of rest is going to be a miracle cure in the first place, but even if it is, who's saying he's suddenly going to become a stud?
Long story short, this is good news, but you need to be cautious with the amount of glee you invest in it. If Baker is healthy and back to rookie year form, he could be a boon for the Falcons. If he's not, it's going to be more of the same in Atlanta.
I'll turn it over to you. What do you think?