It took half the season, but the casualty count of injured quarterbacks finally turned critical in Week 9.
Peyton Manning's broken jaw and Rob Johnson's broken collarbone signaled the resumption of a crisis that afflicts the NFL every season: the battered quarterback syndrome.
After what had been a relatively quiet start to the year, the past two weeks have been especially punishing. In Week 8, four quarterbacks were knocked out of games with an assortment of injuries, and only one -- the San Diego Chargers' Doug Flutie, who had a concussion -- returned to play in Week 9. He did not play particularly well, either.
On Sunday, the Indianapolis Colts amazingly lost Manning for only one play after he absorbed a hard blow to his chin by Miami Dolphins pass rusher Lorenzo Bromell. It was a rather large play, however. With Mark Rypien at quarterback, a fumble by running back Dominic Rhodes set up the winning touchdown drive in Miami's 27-24 victory.
X-rays revealed a hairline fracture of the jaw, and Manning underwent oral surgery Monday. Nevertheless, he is expected to play in Sunday's game at New Orleans against one of the league's best pass rushes. Bromell is certain to be fined because of his helmet-to-helmet hit.
Johnson, of the Buffalo Bills, was not as fortunate when he was sacked by the New England Patriots' Terrell Buckley. He landed on his right shoulder, breaking his collarbone. He'll be out three to five weeks, and the Bills (1-7) will send Alex Van Pelt against Seattle.
Through nine weeks, 10 starting quarterbacks have been forced to miss games with injury. The most severe was Drew Bledsoe's Week 2 mishap, when a legal hit by the New York Jets' Mo Lewis caused bleeding in his chest. Bledsoe may be cleared to return to practice this week for the Patriots.
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