OXFORD, MS - OCTOBER 15: Coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide talks with defensive back Mark Barron #4 of the Alabama Crimson Tide after the Ole Miss Rebels scored on the opening drive on October 15, 2011 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi. (Photo by Butch Dill/Getty Images)
Remember the supposed torn rib cartilage that hindered Mark Barron down the stretch in the 2011 season? Apparently what Barron was playing through was just a tad bit more serious than Nick Saban and others let on. Per CBS Sports:
Alabama safety Mark Barron will not be able to participate in the upcoming Scouting Combine after undergoing a double-hernia surgery, NFLDraftScout.com has confirmed.
There had been speculation at the Senior Bowl that Barron had been unable to participate in the event due to a pre-existing medical condition. Complicating matters is that Barron may not be sufficiently healed or in the shape he'll want to be when Alabama holds their Pro Day March 7.
The big story here in the short-term is that the injury and the subsequent surgery will cause Barron to miss the NFL Combine and perhaps even Alabama's Pro Day next month, but for the most part I'd venture to say this will ultimately cost him little. He will still be regarded as the top safety in the draft, and with obvious size and athleticism and four years worth of game film available of him going up against high-end competition, I doubt this does anything to meaningfully lower his draft stock. The greater issue he will ultimately fight through, as was the case before the injury, is that the safety position just isn't one of the big money positions in the NFL -- such as quarterback, left tackle, wide receiver, defensive end and cornerback -- so even the best players at the position tend to fall down the board into the latter stages of the first round.
NFL future notwithstanding, Barron deserves a hell of a lot of credit for playing through the pain and continuing to perform at such a high level. It was apparent by mid-season that something was hindering him, and when he missed most of the second half of the Auburn game it was obvious that he was playing in a lot of pain. The long layoff between the Iron Bowl and the BCS Championship Game certainly helped things, I'm sure, but clearly that was no long-term fix and even so he went out and played one of his best games in his Alabama finale down in New Orleans.
On a larger note on the subject, a moment of recognition is in order for several others on the 2011 'Bama defense that did something similar. Outside of Barron, Josh Chapman was playing on a torn ACL, Jesse Williams with a bum shoulder, DeQuan Menzie and DeMarcus Milliner with hamstring injuries, Courtney Upshaw with an elbow injury that required the equivalent of a mattress as a protective wrap, and on and on and on. While efforts are made to make the game safer, the harsh truth of the matter is that it is nevertheless a dangerous, physically draining game and at some point its simply inevitable that you have to play through the pain and yet still find away to perform at a high level. The on-field performance by the defense was impressive enough, but what several went through just to stay on the field was perhaps even more so.