NFL Players Returning from Season-Ending Injuries: 10 Progress Reports
Coming back from an injury is one true test of a player's natural ability.
As world-class athletes, NFL players can take a significant step backward from any kind of injury.
Along with the injury itself being unfortunate, the situation only worsens if that player never gets back to prime form. The flip side of that coin, though, is if the player does get back to full gear and really makes a statement.
Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos is arguably the most notable example from 2011.
Upon returning, Manning shredded the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 1, and despite a setback against the Atlanta Falcons, Week 3 was a solid performance as well.
Manning isn't the only one who came back from a season-ender last year.
That said, let's check out the progression of Manning and others since returning to the gridiron for 2012.
Jamaal Charles: RB, Chiefs
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It was a rather slow start for Jamaal Charles in 2012, but he exploded in Week 3.
After rushing for just 90 yards through the first two games, Charles amassed 233 yards against the New Orleans Saints in the Superdome.
This was quite a performance, and it's obvious the Chiefs have their ground game back to normal. In addition, Charles can feel the confidence.
Jamaal Charles put up a brave front about his return from last season’s torn ACL, but he revealed the truth Sunday after his most heroic game with the Chiefs.
“I didn’t trust myself (until Sunday),’’ Charles said. “It really hit me when I started getting the runs. I started trusting myself.
Those with Charles in fantasy football are rejoicing.
Mario Williams: LB/DE, Bills
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Much like Jamaal Charles, it took Mario Williams a couple games to really get comfortable in his return to football.
Joining the Buffalo Bills in the offseason, Williams collected just three tackles through two games.
Now, yes, part of that can be attributed to offenses gearing their blocking schemes to isolate him. However, Williams still didn't look like his old self until this past Sunday.
Then again, his 2011 season ended from a torn pectoral muscle which is vital when trying to get off blocks and make tackles.
Fortunately for Williams and Buffalo, he recorded four tackles and 1.5 sacks against the Cleveland Browns in Week 3. That's the kind of day Buffalo needs from Williams each week because the AFC East is shaping up to be a nail-biter.
Matt Schaub: QB, Texans
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The Houston Texans were 7-3 in 2011 when Matt Schaub was lost for the rest of the season.
Still, the Texans came within seven points of the AFC Championship game and have kicked off 2012 in impressive fashion.
Schaub has been a big part of Houston's great start. After a 65.6 completion percentage, four touchdowns, and no picks against the Denver Broncos in Week 3, the Texans proved they field a complete offense.
Lest we forget, Schaub is a guy who accumulated 9,140 passing yards between 2009 and 2010. So, the man can launch the rock downfield and do it with solid precision. Schaub is much more than just a game-manager, and the Texans are stronger Super Bowl contenders with him under center.
Adrian Peterson: RB, Vikings
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It's bad enough that Adrian Peterson was injured in 2011.
It's worse that the injury occurred toward seasons's end, simply because that leaves less time for recovery.
And to understand the full extent of Peterson's knee, here's what happened. Per Stephania Bell of ESPN back in December:
Peterson officially has a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and a torn medial collateral ligament (MCL) along with some damage to both the medial and lateral meniscus. He is expected to undergo reconstructive surgery in the next week to 10 days.
For as completely damaged as Peterson's knee was, his production thus far in 2012 can only be magnified. With 230 rushing yards and and average of four yards per carry through three games, he and the Minnesota Vikings are making noise in the NFC North.
Matt Forte: RB, Bears
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Since missing the final four games of 2011, it's been rough for Matt Forte on the football field.
Sure he performed well against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 1, but that's just it—it was the Indianapolis Colts.
And although he was faring well versus the Green Bay Packers in Week 2, the year soon took a turn for the worse. According to Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com, Forte injured his ankle, leading to missing Week 3 against the St. Louis Rams.
Lovie says "hopefully" Matt Forte will practice this week. Stay tuned.— Brad Biggs (@BradBiggs) September 24, 2012
What we also have to keep in mind are the contributions of fellow running back Michael Bush.
Bush is a lot better than given credit for, and he has been more durable and reliable than Forte to this point in 2012.
Peyton Manning: QB, Broncos
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Peyton Manning has four NFL MVP awards.
Peyton Manning also has had four neck surgeries.
You take the good with the bad, and the Denver Broncos invested wisely.
The opening season win was huge for Manning and Co., and even with the dismal performance on the road at Atlanta, Denver still only lost by six points. Not to mention the Dirty Birds are arguably the NFL's best team right now.
Thereafter the Broncos hosted the Houston Texans and were beat by another Super Bowl contender. Yet, Manning didn't throw a pick and almost led another comeback. The Broncos are as fine as the schedule is rugged.
Leading Denver to the postseason is all that matters because January won't be as difficult as facing the Falcons and Texans back-to-back.
Jon Beason: LB, Panthers
Jeremy Brevard-US PRESSWIRE
Jon Beason is the heart and soul of the Carolina Panthers.
Before the 2010 season, he had recorded 120-plus tackles in each of his first four seasons.
Then Beason tore his Achilles in Week 1 of the 2011 campaign and his absence certainly was a big part of Carolina's weak run defense. Now, though, Beason has given the Panthers defense much hope.
In Week 1 of the 2012 season, he recorded 10 tackles and has 22 altogether. With much talent around him in rookies Luke Kuechly and Josh Norman, as well as veterans Chris Gamble and Charles Johnson the Cats have promise this fall.
Provided the offense gets back on track, Carolina will be dangerous in the second half of the season.
Fred Jackson: RB, Bills
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Fred Jackson was enjoying a career year in 2011 before it was cut short from a broken bone in his right leg.
Because of how well Jackson was performing in the early going of last fall, though, it was expected that 2012 begin in similar fashion.
Looking at how well the Buffalo Bills improved defensively, the offense need only control the clock with Jackson. Unfortunately, this approach won't be around for a little while. According to ESPN.com in early September:
An MRI exam completed on Jackson's right knee Monday revealed nothing conclusive, a source familiar with result had earlier told [Adam] Schefter. It likely will be 7-10 days before a timeline is established for his return but a source estimated that the running back will miss at least a month.
Looking back to last season and Jackson's 2012 progression from it remains to truly be seen. For his sake, let's hope Jackson does return and gets back to prime form.
Eric Berry: Safety, Chiefs
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During his rookie season in 2010, Eric Berry recorded 92 tackles, defended nine passes and made four interceptions.
Clearly, he made an immediate impact on the Kansas City Chiefs defense, and the 2011 season had high expectations. Then the ACL bug happened and Berry was gone for the year from the start.
Kansas City played a roller coaster season and still almost won the AFC West. Fast forward to 2012 and Berry has made a strong impact. With 14 tackles (eight in Week 3), the Chiefs pass defense is quite impressive.
The run defense does need to improve, but if last Sunday is any indication Berry and K.C. will stuff opponents in the trenches as 2012 continues.
Jay Cutler: QB, Bears
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The good news for Chicago Bears fans is their team is 2-1.
The bad news is Cutler has only three touchdowns to six interceptions and a 52.7 completion percentage. That said, Cutler still has a strong arm and it's not like the pass protection has been consistently reliable.
This offense has an immense amount of talent and potential with Brandon Marshall, rookie Alshon Jeffery, Michael Bush and the aforementioned Matt Forte. Include a solid defense and Chicago is capable of making a postseason run.
Everything here will come down to Cutler's decision-making, though. Because when he's in a rhythm the Bears are tough to stop. Too bad the exact opposite occurs when Cutler goes cold.
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