8 Most Fragile NFL Players

David Webber@@davidpwebber21Analyst INovember 29, 2012

8 Most Fragile NFL Players

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    Great NFL players know their most valuable asset to their team is availability. It doesn't matter how talented or gifted a star happens to be, if he can't get on the field then there is very little that he can do to help the team.

    This is why injuries are so important in the NFL. Who knows how many more games the Steelers could have won with Troy Polamalu in the defensive backfield? Could the Houston Texans have made a Super Bowl run in 2011-2012 if they hadn't lost Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson?

    It's questions like this that can change the course of NFL history, for better or worse.

    Unfortunately for several players, their careers are defined by the injuries that prevent them from seeing the field on Sunday. It's a cruel reality for these athletes, who will be haunted for the rest of their lives wondering what could have been.

Michael Vick

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    In 11 seasons in the NFL, Michael Vick has played a full 16 games only once. What else needs to be said? His style of play lends itself to injury, and he hasn't been helped by porous offensive line play over the last few years in Philadelphia.

    He is currently sitting out with a concussion suffered almost a month ago and hasn't yet passed the tests required to get back on the field. His most significant injury was a broken fibula suffered in a preseason game in 2003. 

    Vick is truly one of the special talents in the NFL, but he simply can't stay on the field enough to make significant contributions. His career will probably take a significant downturn after this year.

Darren McFadden

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    Darren McFadden is a promising player that will never be as special as he could have been simply because of injuries. McFadden has never played a full season and has only played 15 games in the past two years.

    The unfortunate part of McFadden's injury history is that every time the Raiders try to ease him back into action slowly, he just gets hurt again. At this point it's looking like he will never be the same player he was at Arkansas.

    He's only had one year where he ran for over 650 yards (his healthiest season, 2010) and looks destined to be a player with unfulfilled potential.

Troy Polamalu

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    Troy Polamalu's injury problems are particularly saddening because they could be the reason he doesn't get into the Hall of Fame. Polamalu is one of the premier defensive players of the last ten years but he has been injured far too much to be considered one of the best of all time.

    It seemed as though Polamalu had bucked the trend last season, playing in all 16 games. But he's only played in two this year and has missed 30 in his career—the equivalent of nearly two full seasons.

    There's no doubt that Troy Polamalu will go down as one of the better safeties in NFL history, but it's truly unfortunate that he wasn't able to play more often.

Reggie Bush

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    Reggie Bush hasn't been the next Barry Sanders, as draft experts predicted he might, but he's still managed to fashion a nice career for himself. This has been done despite numerous injuries, which seem to strike him each and every year.

    Bush has only played in one full season, his rookie year, and has missed 21 games overall. It's particularly disappointing considering he hasn't been a full-time starter for much of his career. Yet the injury bug continues to bite him.

    Luckily for Bush, he seems to have kicked the habit. As a feature back for the Dolphins, he's only missed one out of a possible 27 games.

Ryan Mathews

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    It's tough to call a third-year player injury prone, but Ryan Mathews fits the bill. Drafted to replace the legendary LaDainian Tomlinson, Mathews has been a general disappointment and has sat out of ten games in his short career.

    Mathews is a frustrating case because people expect him to break out eventually—it just never happens. He rushed for 1,091 yards in 14 games last season but those numbers were relatively unimpressive in comparison to the other backs in the league.

    Until Mathews can get rid of his injuries (and actually heal instead of coming back too early), he'll continue to be a player that couldn't live up to his promise.

Ben Roethlisberger

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    Ben Roethlisberger is probably going to end up in the Hall of Fame for his Super Bowl trophies, but he'll always be remembered as one of the toughest quarterbacks in the history of the NFL.

    He's big and can throw tacklers off of him, and has played behind a perpetually mediocre offensive line for years.

    Still, the punishment Ben takes has a price. He's missed 16 games in his career and plays hurt virtually every week. He's currently nursing hurt ribs and a bum shoulder, and his loss has had a very negative impact on Pittsburgh.

    Big Ben is 30 years old, so he has a lot of football left. But if he keeps getting clobbered every week, he could have a serious decline in production. It's time for the Steelers to finally start protecting their superstar and most important player.

Plaxico Burress

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    Plaxico Burress hasn't been injury prone in the sense that he's missed a ton of games. But he's definitely had injuries, and they seemed to crop up every week when he played for the Giants.

    Burress didn't practice for the majority of his tenure in New York because of chronic injuries. They didn't seem to impact him when he played on Sundays, but the fact is that he simply never practiced.

    Was he faking? Who knows—all that matters is that they took enough of a toll to slow him down near the end of his career. He's currently back with the Steelers, so it remains to be seen whether he can make a comeback.

Adrian Peterson

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    Adrian Peterson is a freak of nature. Anyone who can come back so quickly from the type of ACL injury that he endured has got to be from another planet.

    That being said, it was not his first major injury, and he needs to make a few adjustments to his game if he wants to avoid the 30-year-old running back wall.

    He has missed a number of games in his career and had a particularly bad collarbone injury while playing at Oklahoma. His running style can be best described as violent (that's putting it lightly) and the amount of cuts that he takes will eventually do a number on his knees.

    Peterson is arguably the best running back in the NFL right now, but he's 27 and that 30-year-old wall is approaching fast.

    Peterson may be the best candidate to have a massive drop-off in production once he hits the big 3-0, so he'll have to make adjustments quickly.