5 Football Players That Came Back from Serious Knee Injuries

Stephen SchindlerContributor IIOctober 29, 2012

5 Football Players That Came Back from Serious Knee Injuries

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    Saturday's South Carolina-Tennessee game had us all instinctively grabbing our knees after watching Marcus Lattimore endure his second major knee injury in as many years.

    The outpouring of respect for Lattimore as a player and person has been tremendous; everyone is rooting for Marcus to overcome yet another obstacle.

    As players from the Vols and Gamecocks surrounded Lattimore on the field, images of other major knee injuries came to my mind. While many players have struggled to return from these injuries, there have been several examples of those who were able to fight back and return to the game, post-knee injury. 

5. Curt Warner

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    Largely forgotten among backs in the '80s, Warner was a force for Seahawks coach Chuck Knox's "Ground Chuck" offense.

    After leading the AFC in rushing and taking the Seahawks to the AFC Conference Championship in his 1983 rookie season, Warner tore his ACL in the 1984 opener against the Browns. 

    After the injury, his career lasted 6 more seasons. He rushed for 5,355 yards and 43 touchdowns after the ACL tear. In addition, he accounted for 150 receptions for 1,132 yards and 6 touchdowns after 1984.

    He was selected for the Pro Bowl in 1986 and 1987, posting a career best 1,481 yards and 13 touchdowns in 1986. He was inducted into the Seattle Seahawks Ring of Honor in 1994.

4. Tom Brady

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    In the Patriots' 2008 season opener, a year after Brady broke the single-season touchdown record, Brady's left knee was seriously injured midway through the first quarter on a hit by Chiefs safety Bernard Pollard. Pollard went low and hit Brady's left knee, which resulted in a torn ACL and MCL for Brady.  

    Brady would need surgery, and he was placed on injured reserve for the remainder of the season. The injury ended Brady's streak of 111 consecutive starts.

    Brady bounced back quite well. He won the 2009 Comeback Player of the Year award, throwing for 4,398 yards and 28 touchdowns for a 96.2 quarterback rating.

    Since the injury, Brady has been selected for three straight Pro Bowls. He won his second-career MVP award and threw for 5,235 yards while leading the Patriots to their fifth Super Bowl of his career. 

3. Carson Palmer

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    We all remember the infamous Carson Palmer injury from the 2005 Wild Card Game. Palmer sustained the injury on the first play from scrimmage, launching a 66-yard bomb to rookie Chris Henry. 

    After Palmer released the pass, Steelers defensive tackle Kimo von Oelhoffen dove at Palmer's left leg, violently wrenching Palmer's knee. The injury, which his surgeon called "devastating and potentially career-ending," included tears of both the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments as well as a dislocation of his patella. 

    While Palmer has never achieved the level of production he had prior to the injury, he managed to make good on his vow to return by the 2006 season opener, throwing for 4,035 yards and 28 touchdowns that season. 

    Since his injury, Palmer has thrown for 20,655 yards and thrown 126 touchdowns to 91 interceptions. 

2. Adrian Peterson

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    On Christmas Eve of 2011, Adrian Peterson tore the ACL and MCL in his left knee. Just eight months later, Adrian Peterson returned to the practice field. Amazingly, he played from Week 1 of the 2012 season.

    After nine weeks of action, Peterson is leading the NFL in rushing with 775 yards and four touchdowns. He appears to have regained his explosiveness with eight runs of 20-plus yards, including a 64-yard touchdown run on Thursday Night.

    Lattimore should be encouraged by Peterson's comeback, as the two players have very similar aggressive, downhill running styles.

1. Willis McGahee

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    No other knee injury in football history has put our stomachs in knots more than McGahee's injury in the 2002 National Championship.

    In the early part of the fourth quarter during the 2003 Fiesta Bowl National Championship Game, McGahee suffered an injury after catching a screen pass from Dorsey. He was immediately hit by Buckeye safety Will Allen, which bent his left knee backward and tore his ACL, PCL, and MCL.

    McGahee, a sure-fire top-five selection, required several surgeries and extensive rehabilitation. Many believed McGahee's career was over; however, the Buffalo Bills selected the tailback with the 23rd-overall pick of the 2003 NFL Draft.

    After sitting out his entire rookie season, McGahee returned in 2004, going on to record three straight 1,000 yard rushing seasons upon his return to playing. He was named the 2004 Comeback Player, was selected for Pro Bowls in 2007 and 2011, and is currently in his ninth NFL season.

    The 31-year-old running back appears to still have gas in the tank as the starting back for the Denver Broncos, ranking as eighth in the NFL in rushing yards last season. Despite the horrific injury, McGahee has built himself a successful NFL career with 7,920 rushing yards, 1,264 receiving yards, and 68 total touchdowns.  

Marcus Lattimore?

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    If Marcus Lattimore needs encouragement in coming back from a knee injury, he needs to look within. Lattimore has already successfully come back from an ACL tear to his left knee, which he suffered last season. Lattimore worked tirelessly to return previously; therefore, I have no doubt that he will again do everything he can to return to football.

    Prediction: Lattimore's work ethic and determination will bring him back from this grotesque injury at some point next season.