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O’Neil: Malik McDowell’s injury was as avoidable as it was unfortunate

Malik McDowell missed the start of training camp after suffering an entirely unnecessary injury. (AP)

Leave no doubt.

That was the statement the Seahawks made four years ago on their first day of training camp. They put those three words on the back of T-shirts. They posted them at the door of the locker room. It was a declaration of Seattle’s resolve to avoid the suspensions and uncertainty they had faced in December of 2012 and in the offseason.

The Seahawks made a statement on Sunday, too. This one was longer and it was more literal and it was ultimately a whole lot more difficult to understand as the team clarified the reason its top rookie was absent from the start of training camp.

“Unfortunately, Malik McDowell was involved in a vehicular accident in which he suffered an injury during the NFL break period.”

Note the specific adjective: vehicular. The NFL Network reported the accident involved an all-terrain vehicle and McDowell had suffered a concussion and injuries to his face.

The good news is that McDowell indicated that the injuries are not threatening his life nor his career, which he cleared up in a statement he posted to his Twitter account. He also said he expected to rejoin the team soon.

The bad news is that Seattle’s top pick from this year’s draft suffered a serious injury in an entirely unnecessary – and inherently dangerous – activity, if the NFL Network report regarding the ATV is accurate.

I hope he’s OK. I also wonder what the heck he was thinking.

I’ll admit to having a personal bias in this regard. I think off-road vehicles are intolerably dangerous for pretty much anyone let alone a 20-something whose body is in essence a multi-million dollar business.

It’s not like I’m a city-slicker snob. I grew up in rural Oregon with more than a touch of hillbilly in my background, and I learned how dangerous dirt bikes, ATVs and their winter brethren, the snowmobile, could be. My pop was a logger who owned a motorcycle in college, and he thought four-wheelers were dangerous enough to inform me he wouldn’t pay a dime on hospital bills if I was hurt while riding one. I was 9 or 10 at the time. It obviously made an impression.

How anyone with as much to lose as a pro athlete decides to ride something like that is absolutely baffling, especially since those kind of activities are generally forbidden under the terms of NFL contracts. And yet there are tons of stories, whether it’s Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner injuring his shoulder when he crashed a dirt bike or tight end Kellen Winslow injuring his knee in a motorcycle crash. Former A’s third baseman Carney Lansford could have died in a snowmobiling accident in Oregon back in the early ’90s.

The Seahawks took the high road in their statement on the injury by stating, “We consider this a long-term relationship and will do whatever is in the best interest of Malik.”

In other words, he was doing something he shouldn’t have been, but the Seahawks are going to stand by him. But the Seahawks’ statement also makes it clear that McDowell is now a question mark for the season ahead.

The accident happened more than a week ago and yet McDowell still wasn’t yet ready to travel to attend training camp. We’ll have to wait and see what he lost both in terms of weight and conditioning and whether he’ll be able to make an impact at all.

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