This offseason, the Buffalo Bills have continued to improve their already impressive defensive front with the addition of linebacker, Brandon Spikes. The plan was to have Spikes take over for Kiko Alonso at middle linebacker, while Alonso would slide over to the weakside linebacker position, where he could get more opportunities to rush the quarterback and create havoc on opposing offenses. Those plans will have to be scrapped, as the Bills announced this week that Alonso had torn his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) while training in Oregon.
With Mario Williams rushing from the outside, Kyle Williams and Marcel Dareus clogging the middle, and Nigel Bradham exceeding expectations, the Bills have enough pieces that the loss of Alonso shouldn’t be crippling. That isn’t to say he won’t be missed. Alonso had skyrocketed the start of his career. The Bills 2nd round pick compiled 159 tackles in his rookie campaign, as he became a premier run-stopper at the professional level. The Bills hit the jackpot with Alonso, who fit seamlessly into one of the game’s best front sevens.
It is not yet clear how the injury occurred. Alonso was rehabbing from hip surgery that he underwent earlier in the offseason, to repair a torn labrum. Injured athletes, both consciously and subconsciously, compensate for injuries by changing their mechanics. This redirects the load of force from an injured joint to a healthy joint, increasing the healthy joint’s workload. This is quite possibly what happened with Kiko Alonso. If his hip was not ready to handle the stress of his workouts, he could have been putting extra strain on his knee, potentially leading to this injury.
Despite Sean Lee’s recent ACL tear during organized team activities, major knee injuries are not common during the NFL offseason. Players are avoiding contact during offseason workouts. They also generally avoid training that involve intense lateral movement, such as explosive side to side movement. Rapid lateral movement puts stress and strain on the ACL. The ACL acts to resist side-to-side movement in the leg, allowing the foot to plant firmly in the ground and push forward. When the ligament is stressed beyond its resistance capabilities, it can tear. When the ligament tears, it often requires surgical repair, followed by a lengthy rehabilitation. Alonso is expected to miss seven-to-nine months, which will rule him out for the 2014 season.
Buffalo’s front office is trying to rebuild a team that is in the midst of the NFL’s longest playoff drought. Since the team wasn’t necessarily expected to contend in the AFC East this season, this injury shouldn’t be too damning for Buffalo’s future. With Alonso being only 23 years old, his body should heal quickly and respond well to treatment. He has access to world-class doctors and training staff. There is little incentive to rush his recovery and get him back on the field this season, but Buffalo should expect to see Alonso fully healthy next year. Fans have plenty of reason to be optimistic about 2015.