Athletes Who May Be out of Chances

Zac Wassink@https://twitter.com/ZacWassinkFeatured ColumnistSeptember 24, 2016

Athletes Who May Be out of Chances

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    David Dermer/Associated Press

    Every athlete eventually runs out of chances. Nobody plays forever. 

    Age and time often end careers. Peyton Manning, one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play in the National Football League, retired earlier this year because he physically was no longer the same player he was in his prime. Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Justin Blackmon, a different type of player seemingly out of chances, remains indefinitely suspended for multiple reasons. Blackmon is only 26 years old, but it seems as if he'll never play another down in the NFL. 

    CM Punk may never again compete in the Ultimate Fighting Championship after his lackluster performance against Mickey Gall earlier in September. Robert Griffin III lasted only one game with the Cleveland Browns. O.J. Mayo is not eligible to play in the National Basketball Association for two years, and he may become a forgotten name by then. 

    Every athlete who makes it in a pro league should cherish the opportunity. A career can end in an instant due to misfortune. Some players never reach their full potential for one reason or another. Each of the athletes mentioned here may be out of the sports world by the end of the decade at the latest. 

    Who, among them, do you believe will enjoy a triumphant return?

Jessica Eye

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    David Dermer/Associated Press

    Jessica Eye has fought in the UFC six times since the start of February 2014. She lost five of those contests. Her last victory occurred in November 2014, and she is currently in the middle of a four-fight losing streak. 

    "I’m not being told that I’m getting cut, but I’m looking at it that way," Eye told reporters, per Brent Brookhouse and John Morgan of MMAjunkie, before the UFC 203 event that took place in downtown Cleveland. Eye, a resident of Cleveland, lost to Bethe Correia via split decision in the main event of the cable television portion of that show. 

    The fight featuring Eye and Correia was a close encounter that could've gone either way on scorecards. It was also largely a boring fight that did few favors for the victor let alone for the loser. Neither woman looked spectacular after those three rounds of action. 

    Eye doesn't do much for the business end of the UFC these days. She isn't a draw outside of the Cleveland area; heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic, a native of northeast Ohio, is a bigger name. The 30-year-old has an awful record, one that contains zero noteworthy victories, over the past two years. 

    Eye no longer deserves a spot on a decent UFC card, and the promotion wouldn't lose a massive star if it decided to cut her before the end of the year.

O.J. Mayo

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    Brett Davis/Associated Press

    O.J. Mayo hasn't been much of a professional basketball player since the conclusion of the 2014-15 NBA campaign. He played in only 41 games last season, as he was sidelined by multiple injury setbacks. Some casual fans out there may not even know he was a member of the Milwaukee Bucks. 

    Mayo's career is now in jeopardy, and it may, as far as we know, already be over. Mayo, per the Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com), was "dismissed and disqualified" from the NBA this past summer for a drug violation. While the NBA is not allowed to disclose exactly why Mayo received that punishment, it is known he can apply for reinstatement in 2018. 

    It was eight years ago when Mayo was a prospect worthy of being selected with the third pick in an NBA draft. Mayo played well in his rookie season, but he never even flirted with becoming a superstar for the Memphis Grizzlies or for any other team. Truth be told, Mayo has been an average player, at best, over the past three seasons. 

    A lot can happen in two years. Perhaps Mayo will be ready to dedicate himself to basketball in the summer of 2018. Maybe, however, Mayo no longer desires to play in the NBA. As of September 2016, it's difficult to imagine why any team would take a chance on a player who seemed to diminish in talent since 2013 and who is currently banned from being on a roster.

Mark Sanchez

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    Some knowledgeable football journalist should, one day, write a book about the ups and downs in the career of Mark Sanchez. 

    The New York Jets executed a trade to obtain the rights to draft the quarterback out of USC in 2009. Sanchez, in time, became the toast of the Big Apple while playing for winning teams. He once outperformed Tom Brady in a postseason game played in Foxborough, Massachusetts, and Sanchez started for the Jets in a pair of conference championship games. 

    Sanchez failed to win either of those contests, though, and the Jets never again came as close to playing in a Super Bowl with the man once known as the "Sanchize" on the team's roster. The Jets parted ways with Sanchez in March 2014, and he signed with the Philadelphia Eagles later that month. Sanchez failed to establish himself as a starter with the Eagles in two seasons, though, and he was traded to the Denver Broncos this past March. 

    That trade did little for Sanchez's career when all was said and done. Rookie Trevor Siemian won the starting job in Denver before the start of the 2016 season, and Sanchez was released in September. Sanchez is now a backup for the Dallas Cowboys. 

    The Jets, Eagles and Broncos all gave Sanchez opportunities to start and win. The Cowboys, meanwhile, are seemingly happy to start rookie Dak Prescott ahead of Sanchez until Tony Romo is healthy and ready to return to the lineup. Sanchez may never again receive a chance to start for a NFL team. 

    What a strange trip it has been for a QB who twice was a victory away from playing for a Super Bowl title.

Alex Rodriguez

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    Alex Rodriguez probably didn't begin 2016 believing he would be out of baseball by the end of August. 

    Rodriguez enjoyed a successful return to the league in 2015 following a suspension that cost him the entire 2014 campaign. Per Baseball-Reference.com, he blasted 33 home runs and finished the 2015 season with 86 RBI. He posted his best slugging percentage and OPS numbers since 2010. He even earned some Most Valuable Player votes. A-Rod was back. 

    Rodriguez hit a figurative wall in 2016, however, as he never found his form from the prior season. He slumped at the plate when given opportunities to start for the New York Yankees, and he also dealt with a hamstring issue. Rodriguez played his final game for the Yankees on August 12. He has not since featured for any club. 

    The possibility exists Rodriguez will want to return to the league next spring. Why would any team want to pay A-Rod millions of dollars at this point of his career? He doesn't play shortstop or third base anymore. He isn't a proven first baseman. Rodriguez is no longer a dynamic designated hitter. Rodriguez remains one of the biggest names in the sport, but it currently appears he is out of chances to play at the highest level.

Brock Lesnar

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    John Locher/Associated Press

    Brock Lesnar competing at UFC 200 was a one-off as far as the public knows. Lesnar, after all, is signed to World Wrestling Entertainment. He returned to the active WWE roster after he defeated Mark Hunt at UFC 200 in July 2016. 

    The former UFC heavyweight champion impressed in his return to legitimate fighting, as he earned a victory over Hunt via unanimous decision. Even before the UFC 200 pay-per-view went off the air, pockets of fight fans began wondering if it was only a matter of time before Lesnar was put back into the title picture because of his name and his ability to draw attention to events. 

    Such speculation vanished when, as Tristen Critchfield of Sherdog explained, it was learned Lesnar tested positive for an estrogen blocker before UFC 200. Lesnar technically never should have been able to fight against Hunt, but the results of the test weren't learned until after that bout. Lesnar is currently suspended from fighting in the UFC, and, per Shaun Al-Shatti of MMA Fighting, he is facing a two-year suspension that would keep him banned until the summer of 2018. 

    Lesnar turned 39 years old this past July. His victory over Hunt will forever be tainted in the eyes of passionate fight fans who will, regardless of the results of any hearings or appeals, believe Lesnar cheated leading up to UFC 200. Fans enjoyed watching Lesnar make a return to the cage this past summer, but he no longer deserves any other chances to fight in the UFC.

Johnny Manziel

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    Scott Eklund/Associated Press

    Those of us who don't personally know Johnny Manziel don't know if he actually wants to ever again play in the NFL. 

    The tumultuous career of the man once known as "Johnny Football" has been well-documented. The Cleveland Browns drafted Manziel in 2014, and the former Texas A&M star failed to earn the starting job on a long-term basis in Cleveland. Per Pro-Football-Reference.com, Manziel started only eight times during his two seasons with the Browns. The Browns cut Manziel following the 2015 campaign. 

    Manziel made headlines off the football field multiple times over the years. Stories about his partying became mainstays on websites such as TMZ. Manziel was indicted on an assault charge following an alleged incident involving his ex-girlfriend earlier this year. The NFL suspended Manziel this past June, per ESPN.com, after he allegedly violated the NFL's substance abuse policy. 

    Manziel is currently a free agent. 

    The odds are seemingly against Manziel making a memorable comeback to the NFL. He was hardly stellar during his limited appearances with the Browns, and his supposed issues away from football could be enough for any general manager to pass on him at this point.

Hope Solo

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    Eugenio Savio/Associated Press

    Back in 2014, ESPN.com's Jim Caple (h/t ESPNW) wrote about former United States women's national team member Hope Solo.

    Solo, arguably the greatest goalkeeper, male or female, to feature for her country, had a history of making headlines off the pitch. She lashed out at former coach Greg Ryan after she was benched during the 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup. She was arrested and charged with allegedly assaulting two family members in June 2014. Per ESPN.com, Solo earned a 30-day suspension from the national team following a run-in with police that involved her husband allegedly operating a vehicle under the influence. 

    Solo nevertheless remained part of the national team up through the 2016 Summer Olympics, where the Americans were eliminated by Sweden and failed to win a medal. As Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated explained, Solo referred to the Swedish players as "cowards" because of their defensive tactics against the United States. Those comments resulted in U.S. Soccer terminating Solo's contract and suspending her for six months. 

    We will likely never again see Solo represent the U.S. on one of the sport's biggest stages. Solo turned 35 years old earlier this year. The next World Cup doesn't occur until 2019. Solo's national team is moving on without her, and there is currently no reason to believe the U.S. will call Solo back into the squad in 2017.

Tim Tebow

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    Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    Tim Tebow is no longer only a former NFL player. 

    Tebow hasn't played in a NFL regular-season game since the 2012 campaign. He was last on a roster roughly one year ago when he was a backup quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles. No team, regardless of injuries or other QBs' poor play, has been willing to give Tebow a chance. His NFL career, as far as we know, is over. 

    Tebow, to his credit, is not finished attempting to thrive as a pro athlete. He held a workout for Major League Baseball scouts in late August, and that workout impressed the New York Mets enough that the club offered Tebow a minor league contract. Tebow has since worked out as a member of the Mets in Florida. 

    Odds are against Tebow making a significant impact for the Mets or for any other club. He turned 29 years old in August, and he is essentially starting his baseball career from the ground floor. It may be only a matter of time until the Mets part ways with the former QB once the franchise has sold a certain number of jerseys with Tebow's name on the back of them.

Robert Griffin III

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    Ron Schwane/Associated Press

    The Cleveland Browns gave quarterback Robert Griffin III an opportunity to resurrect his career earlier this year. Griffin, once the Offensive Rookie of the Year while with the Washington Redskins, lost his job in Washington to Kirk Cousins. The Redskins parted ways with the QB who has a well-known injury history in March, but Griffin remained on the market for only a few weeks before he signed with the Browns. 

    Griffin didn't make it through four full quarters of meaningful action before suffering a serious shoulder injury in Week 1 of the current season. While completing a run in the fourth quarter of that game, Griffin lowered his left shoulder and plowed into a defender rather than choosing to slide. It was learned, after the game, Griffin suffered a fracture in his shoulder. The earliest he can return is Week 10 of the current campaign. 

    ESPN's Adam Schefter later reported some within the Browns believe "Griffin's injury could turn out to be a good thing for the franchise," as it will force head coach Hue Jackson and his staff to move on and scout college prospects the Browns could draft next spring. 

    Anybody watching the Week 2 game involving the Browns and Baltimore Ravens could see Cleveland's offense is better with veteran Josh McCown playing in place of Griffin. Both McCown and Griffin are currently injured, but it seems Cleveland can stop evaluating Griffin after one game. Griffin isn't the answer for the Browns. 

    He may not be the answer for any team looking for a starting QB in 2017.

CM Punk

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    Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    Following the events of UFC 203, UFC President Dana White told John Pollock of the Fight Network CM Punk probably shouldn't have his next fight in the UFC if Punk wishes to continue his career. 

    White's comments are understandable. Punk, who trained for less than two full years for his fight against Mickey Gall, not only lost to the 24-year-old. The former WWE superstar looked like he didn't belong in the top mixed martial arts promotion in the world during a fight that barely lasted a half-round. 

    Such criticisms aren't personal knocks on Punk, and they are not harsh words about where he is as a fighter. Punk isn't an accomplished amateur wrestler. Unlike Brock Lesnar, who managed to earn a spot on a NFL team for a brief amount of time, Punk has no deep history competing in legitimate sports. 

    Perhaps things could've gone differently for Punk had he started his fighting career 15 years ago. At 37 years old, Punk, simply stated, is too old to start at the beginning and reach a level where he deserves to fight in the UFC. 

    The UFC has a difficult decision to make regarding Punk. On one hand, Punk remains a big name who would draw eyes were he to fight on another UFC card. Punk, nevertheless, is clearly not at the level of even unproven fighters signed by the UFC as of the fall of 2016. 

    The UFC gave Punk a chance to fight. He flopped, and he flopped badly. He doesn't deserve another opportunity to compete in the UFC anytime soon, if ever again.