On Friday morning, it was reported that Steelers’ outside linebacker Olasunkanmi Adeniyi underwent an undisclosed surgery. In a social media post which was quickly removed, Adeniyi thanked the Steelers organization for showing him so much support.
With no acknowledgement from the Steelers as to the extent of Adeniyi’s injury or a timetable to return, there is a lot of room for speculation with little room for facts. Although it has been reported it was a procedure for a torn meniscus with a time frame to return of two to four weeks at best, no other credible information has emerged about the situation.
Where there is a lack of information, questions usually begin to multiply. Was this an immediate need? Without surgery, would Adeniyi’s long-term health be at risk? Will he have to go on injured reserve? How long has Ola known he would need surgery? What was the cause for the specific timing of the procedure?
Until we get answers, all Steelers fans can do is guess. So let’s take a guess! I’m going to offer one possible THEORY behind the circumstances dealing with the timing of Adeniyi’s surgery. Please remember that I have no more inside information than any of you reading this article, but this is a hypothesis I formed based in the limited information given at the time. I’m going to have to outline a few things in order to shape this theory, but I’ll do my best to explain it thoroughly.
So here we go...
The NFL life of the Undrafted Free Agent
Although Adeniyi was on the Steelers roster in 2018 after returning from the Injured Reserve list, his status for 2019 was anything but guaranteed. Almost all undrafted players come in to each season having to earn their spot on the roster. Once an undrafted player has proven their worth over several seasons and earned a second contract, then their status with the team is more secure. This can also be true with many drafted players, but is not necessarily at the same level.
Let’s look at Ramon Foster as an example. Signed as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2009, Foster earned his spot on the team. Battling for a starting position in 2010, if Foster would have been unavailable during training camp, there is no guarantee the Steelers would have kept him on the team. In 2012 Foster received a one-year restricted free agent tender, followed by signing a three-year deal in 2013.
Not playing nearly as often as Foster did his rookie season, Adeniyi needed to earn his way onto the Steelers roster for 2019. Had Ola not been available throughout the preseason, he would have run the risk of being waived/injured. There were other options the Steelers could have used such as the PUP list, but an unproven player may not want to run the risk of finding themselves out of the league.
Considering the uncertainty of his future with the Steelers entering training camp, Adeniyi made have been fully aware surgery was in his future at some point. Not wanting to miss his chance in the NFL, Ola may have chose to play through the pain in order to help secure his roster position with the Steelers.
The best time to miss
Having a good training camp and first preseason game, if Adeniyi had made the Steelers aware of his meniscus they may have suggested getting the surgery now. If he is to miss four weeks, the time frame for his return would be just before the home opener at Heinz Field against Seattle in Week 2. By missing most of the preseason games, Adeniyi could avoid going on IR to start the season like he did last year. Had he waited until the Week 4 preseason game, Ola would run the risk of going through the “designated to return” process and miss at least half of the season.
If the timing of the surgery was deliberate, Adeniyi was able to showcase his skills through most of training camp and one preseason game while hopefully missing minimal regular season games.
Open and honest communication
While we as fans want this from the team, the best open communication needs to occur between the player and the organization. If Adeniyi made the team aware he was playing through injury and would need surgery sometime in the future, the Steelers could help in making the decision for the player. In turn, if the Steelers were open and honest about Adeniyi’s future with the team, the decision to get the surgery now rather than have a lingering problem could be made much easier.
If the Steelers left Adeniyi in the dark in regards to their plans for him in 2019, the only way he would have the surgery is if he couldn’t put it off any longer. So either Adeniyi had to get the surgery now due to recent events, or he and the team came to an agreement that now was the best time.
The theory in a nutshell
Here’s the simple version of what I believe could have been the way things played out with Adeniyi having his surgery last Friday:
- He knew he would eventually need surgery, but Andeiyi needed to earn a roster spot in training camp
- Adeniyi made the Steelers aware of the need for surgery at some point, but was playing through it the best he could
- After Week 1 of the preseason, the Steelers had seen enough to know they wanted Ola for 2019
- The Steelers and Adeniyi agreed for him to get the problem fixed now so the impact of time missed during the regular season would be minimal
I’m sure this theory could turn out to be way off, but when Ola thanked the Steelers’ coaches for being so supportive it gives an indication the decision for surgery was a mutual decision. For all we know, Adeniyi could have hurt his knee last week making all of these speculations invalid. Hopefully we’ll know more of the story sometime soon. But until then, feel free to give your thoughts in the comments below.