NFL Players Who Could Win Comeback Player of the Year
The NFL's Comeback Player of the Year award is presented to players who resurrect their careers from recent struggles.
Those struggles could include a season-long bad performance or a player not living up to his standards. The award typically goes to a player who suffered an injury and had to take time off from football the season before.
With those common qualifications, I will list 15 players on this slideshow who are worthy of receiving this award. In the final slideshow, I will put together the top five players out of the 15 who have a realistic chance at winning the Comeback Player of the Year award.
Broncos QB Peyton Manning
No team took a bigger hit than the Indianapolis Colts did after Peyton Manning missed all of 2011. Manning is now with the Denver Broncos and believes he still has it in him to go earn another Super Bowl ring before he retires.
Manning's name usually comes up when discussing the league's Most Valuable Player. This is the first time that No. 18 will be in the Comeback Player of the Year discussion.
Bears QB Jay Cutler
In all of Jay Cutler's years as a starting quarterback, last season was the most difficult for him.
Cutler's broken thumb forced him to miss the final six games of the regular season. He looks to improve and help bring the Chicago Bears back into the NFC Championship picture.
Chiefs QB Matt Cassel
Matt Cassel earned his first Pro Bowl invitation in 2010 after he threw 27 touchdown passes against just seven interceptions. Last season, Cassel threw 10 touchdown passes against nine interceptions.
Cassel's suffered a broken hand last year and is one of many Chiefs hoping to make a big return in 2012.
Eagles QB Michael Vick
Last year was not the year for the Philadelphia Eagles, who many thought would win the Super Bowl.
Michael Vick also had an up-and-down year in 2011, setting a career high for both passing yards and interceptions.
Vick, a former recipient of the award, hopes to lift the Eagles and bring them back to their 2010 glory.
Raiders QB Carson Palmer
Carson Palmer went from contemplating retirement with the Cincinnati Bengals to being the starting quarterback of the Oakland Raiders.
After joining the Raiders midway through the season, Palmer started under center with limited knowledge of the offense. Now that he has spent an entire offseason with the Raiders, fans will find out what Palmer is made of.
Rams QB Sam Bradford
Sam Bradford's rookie season was one of the best by a quarterback in NFL history. Bradford got his name in the record books in a few rookie passing categories, but his sophomore season was a complete 180.
Bradford missed several games last year and the Rams suffered as a result. This season, St. Louis would like to see Bradford remain on the field and get them back in the NFC West hunt.
Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles
Jamaal Charles became a rising star in 2009, made the Pro Bowl in 2010 and was set to do bigger things in 2011.
But that was cut short after Charles became the third Chiefs player to suffer a torn ACL early in the season. The Chiefs' running game was non-existent throughout the year and Kansas City hopes that Charles will reverse that in 2012.
Chiefs RB Peyton Hillis
Peyton Hillis is another Chiefs player looking to rebound from a disappointing year.
It appeared he had proven the Denver Broncos wrong after they let him slip to Cleveland, eventually rushing for over 1,000 yards in 2010. But multiple illnesses, strep throat and a hamstring injury kept Hillis on the sidelines for a large chunk of last season.
Hillis is now part of what might be one of the top running back duos in 2012 with Charles in Kansas City.
Vikings RB Adrian Peterson
For the first time in his career, Adrian Peterson was unable to amass over 1,000 yards due to missing four games with a knee injury last season.
Peterson has a reliable blocker in Matt Kalil, which can allow him to have a good comeback season if he stays healthy.
49ers WR Randy Moss
The NFL has not seen Randy Moss since 2010, when he collected a total of 28 catches for 393 yards and five touchdowns with the Tennessee Titans, Minnesota Vikings and New England Patriots.
Moss will be joining a 49ers team led by Alex Smith. Smith had a breakout season last year and helped lead the 49ers to the NFC Championship Game.
The 49ers, who have an elite defense, look to be more three-dimensional with the addition of Moss.
Dolphins WR Chad Ochocinco
Chad Ochocinco’s career is declining, hence why the Bengals traded him at a cheap price. Ochocinco was a non-factor in the regular season with the New England Patriots, catching only 15 passes and one touchdown. His only reception in the postseason came in the Super Bowl loss to the New York Giants.
Now Ochocinco is looking to make a comeback with the Miami Dolphins and rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
Cowboys WR Miles Austin
In 2009, Miles Austin shot up and caught the attention of every football fan as he became one of the league's top receivers.
Austin was slowed down by a hamstring injury last year and barely participated in the Cowboys' season finale. If Austin comes back strong in 2012, Dallas could get their first NFC East title since 2009.
Texans WR Andre Johnson
Statistically, it was the worst performance Andre Johnson had in a single season. Suffering a hamstring injury was the cause of his disappearance on the field, though he did manage to come out strong in the divisional round of the playoffs.
The two-time receiving yards leader is looking to return to his old form as the Houston Texans eye another trip to the playoffs.
Bills DE Mario Williams
Excluding his rookie year, Mario Williams had the fewest sacks he's ever had in a single season. He wasted no time collecting five sacks in five games before being placed on the Texans' injured reserve list with a torn pectoral muscle. He suffered the injury while achieving his fifth sack.
Williams is already off to a good start in 2012 after signing a six-year $100 million contract with the Buffalo Bills. All he needs to do is capitalize by proving he is worth the money.
Chiefs S Eric Berry
Eric Berry quickly became a rising star in 2010 coming out of Tennessee. He became one of the big-name safeties in the NFL and was ready to shine in 2011. Alas, he suffered a torn ACL just under five minutes into the regular season.
The Chiefs fell just short of winning the AFC West, falling in last place with a 7-9 record while the Denver Broncos finished 8-8. Fans hope that Berry can make a difference to help the Chiefs stay in the division race.
Ranking the Top 5 Candidates
5. S Eric Berry - Berry was highly touted as one of college football's best players. Berry was unable to meet expectations due to his injury taking place early in the season, and will be motivated to make strides after being away from the game for so long.
4. QB Michael Vick - If any player on this list knows anything about making a comeback, it's Vick. The 2010 Comeback Player of the Year could win this award once again after a disappointing season. He can take the award by taking on more of a leadership role and doing his best to keep his team in uniform.
3. RB Adrian Peterson - Peterson and the Vikings had it tough in 2011. Christian Ponder is still learning and will need Peterson back to help lead the offense. Peterson has not been in a position where the Vikings have had to question his desire or his toughness.
2. RB Jamaal Charles - Even when Charles shared the backfield with Thomas Jones in 2010, he managed to finish second in the league in rushing. Charles has a tough task to overcome as most running backs struggle when returning from a torn ACL. But Charles' injury occurring in Week 2 has given him ample time to recover. Defenses have to watch out for his breakaway speed.
1. QB Peyton Manning - Last year was the first time Manning missed a start in his career. Everyone is aware of what Manning is capable of, as he's been one of the most consistent quarterbacks in the regular season for the last decade.
Manning knows that his return won't be easy, but he's still capable of making his receivers look good and that will ultimately lead to success for the Denver Broncos.