An injury at the wrong time can derail an NFL team’s season, but fortunately for a few teams with their eyes on the Lombardi Trophy, some of football’s biggest stars will return for the final weeks of the season.
Getting back a key player can be exactly what a team needs to get back on track toward reaching the postseason or to build momentum for a Super Bowl run.
Regardless of what position these teams are in, getting their high-profile players back will be a significant benefit.
Here are the NFL stars who will be back before the playoffs start.
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers quarterback faced a scary rib injury that could have been life threatening, but he is near a return now.
CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora reported via Twitter that Big Ben is eyeing a comeback, but still proceeding with caution.
Steelers update: Big Ben will "ease" way back into practice Wed. Many still expect he will play. Woodley very likely out for Sun...— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) November 27, 2012
Pittsburgh has struggled significantly without Roethlisberger in the lineup. With him back, the offense will be effective once again, and this team’s playoff hopes will be restored.
Ray Lewis, Baltimore Ravens
When Ray Lewis tore his triceps earlier this year, it was widely believed that he was done for the season. But the Ravens’ future Hall of Famer has once again surprised NFL fans.
Yahoo Sports’ Michael Silver reported the following on Lewis’ possible return.
More than half a dozen sources told Yahoo! Sports that legendary linebacker Ray Lewis, believed to be lost for the season after suffering a torn triceps in mid-October, is expected to return before the end of the 2012 campaign, perhaps as early as the Ravens' Dec. 16 showdown with the AFC West-leading Denver Broncos at M&T Bank Stadium.
Lewis may not be the player he used to be, and this injury may slow him down even further. But his leadership and ability to recognize what opposing offenses are running is invaluable to the Ravens defense.
Rob Gronkoswki, New England Patriots
Gronkowski’s injury marred he Patriots’ rout over the Indianapolis Colts, and he missed the team’s last game with a broken forearm.
While it was originally believed that he would be out for the remainder of the regular season, NFL.com’s Albert Breer notes that the star tight end is eyeing a Week 14 comeback.
Gronkowski had screws inserted in his forearm at MGH this AM. He'll want to play during that Texans-Niners turn. That'd be awfully quick.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) November 19, 2012
New England would hugely benefit from having him back in the lineup for these two difficult matchups.
Greg Jennings, Green Bay Packers
Greg Jennings has been out for seven games with a torn abdominal muscle, and while other Packers wide outs have stepped up in his absence, the team will greatly benefit from getting one of the league’s most reliable receivers back.
ESPN Milwaukee’s Jason Wilde reported the following on Jennings’ return:
The Green Bay Packers won’t get all of their injured starters back this week, but they’ll have one: Two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Greg Jennings.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy said during a Tuesday evening press conference that the question with Jennings, who has missed the team’s last seven games and eight of their last 10, is how many snaps he’ll be able to handle against the Minnesota Vikings Sunday at Lambeau Field.
Even limited production will be a massive boost for the Packers, who are coming off a blowout loss to the New York Giants.