Comeback Kids: 14 NFL Players Looking to Rebound From Injuries in 2010
In no other professional sport are injuries as prevalent as they are in the NFL.
In fact, after watching the way these humongous men throw their bodies around week after week, it’s a wonder that there aren’t more injuries.
A decent amount of the injuries that are sustained generally aren’t very serious, and most guys only miss a few games or simply play through their ailments.
But one of the most heartbreaking things in all of sports is seeing one of your team's best players go down with a season-ending injury.
Whether this injury takes place on the first snap of a preseason game or during the last few weeks of the season, it is never something anyone wants to see.
Not only is your team without a player it was counting on to produce, but the guy who was hurt has just endured an injury that was excruciating, and he will now have to miss the rest of the season.
With these types of injuries, the player is looking at a serious surgical procedure followed by months of rehab. And once they get healthy enough to be on the football field, they will have to prove that they can still be the player they used to be.
Regardless of what team you root for, you have to feel for the guy who worked himself silly to get ready for the new season only to have a 300 pound lineman roll into his knee during week two.
As we’re all getting ready to enjoy another great season of the NFL, here are 14 players who will be looking to rebound from serious injuries they suffered during the 2009 campaign.
The Dolphins running back and wildcat wizard looked like he was well on his way to another fine season running the ball in 2009.
There’s little doubt that Brown is one of the better running backs in the NFL when healthy, and through nine games last season, he had accumulated 648 rushing yards, eight touchdowns, and was averaging a solid 4.4 yards per carry.
Unfortunately for Brown, his successful 2009 season wouldn’t continue, as he broke his foot making a cut during the Dolphins Week 10 game against Tampa Bay, which caused him to miss the final seven games of the season.
This isn’t the first time the former Auburn standout has had a serious injury derail a great campaign, as Brown suffered a torn ACL in 2007 that caused him to miss the Dolphins' final nine games that season.
These two injuries coupled with a broken hand, which caused Brown to miss three games in the 2006 season, currently have him labeled as an injury prone player who has trouble staying on the field for the full 16 games.
As the 2010 season is about to begin, Brown has fully rehabbed his foot and is ready to show everyone that he can stay healthy and be one of the premier backs in the NFL.
One of the more heart-wrenching scenes of the 2009 season took place when Welker tore both his ACL and MCL during the Patriots final game of the regular season against the Houston Texans.
The video of Welker sitting on the Patriots bench dealing with the pain and disappointment of an incredibly serious knee injury that would prevent him from helping his team in the playoffs and possibly prevent him from being ready for the start of the 2010 season was a tough thing for anyone to watch, regardless of what team they root for.
Since being acquired by the Patriots in 2007, the former undrafted wide receiver out of Texas Tech has become one of the best and most consistent pass catchers in all of the NFL.
Because of his small stature, Welker has been the underdog for most of his career, and it will be no different for the 5'9" wide receiver heading into the 2010 season as he tries to bounce back from a grave knee injury.
Considering that Welker’s injury took place in January and that it’s been just a few months since his surgery, it’s fairly remarkable that he participated in the team’s OTA’s, as well as being on the field for the start of Patriots training camp, albeit with a brace on his knee.
At this point, all signs are pointing to Welker being ready for the start of the season, which would be incredible considering what he has been through the last few months.
By all accounts, 2009 was supposed to be Anthony Gonzalez’s breakout year.
With the departure of Marvin Harrison, Gonzalez had earned a starting spot in the Colts' pass-happy offense, and he looked primed to become one of Peyton Manning’s favorite targets.
But during the first quarter of the Colts first game of the season against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Gonzalez endured a freak non-contact knee injury during a running play that sidelined him for the entire season.
In his absence, youngsters Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie stepped up their game and both had great years for a Colts team that went all the way to the Super Bowl before falling to the New Orleans Saints.
The good news for Gonzalez is that he will not begin the regular season on the physically unable to perform list. The bad news? He will be competing with both Garcon and Collie for playing time as they look to build off of the success they had last season.
Another young player who looked primed to for a breakout season in 2009 was Giants safety Kenny Phillips.
Going into the season, the former first round pick out of Miami had won a starting safety spot in the Giants defensive backfield, and during the first two games of the season, he not only led the team in tackles but also intercepted two passes. He looked like he was on his way to becoming one of the best young safeties in the game.
But two games were as far as Phillips' 2009 season would go.
The 23-year-old safety was diagnosed with patellofemoral arthritis in his left knee, which had been present during the preseason but was something Phillips opted to try to play with.
After just two regular season games, the condition worsened and required him to undergo microfracture surgery in September.
Microfracture has one of the longest recovery times of all knee surgeries, and this was apparent earlier in the week when Phillips was placed on the physically unable to perform list and spent the start of Giants training camp on the sidelines while he awaits clearance from team doctors.
Because of the severity of his injury, some have doubted whether or not Phillips will ever be able to return to the player he once was. But the 23-year-old safety has maintained that he will be ready to practice soon and has remained optimistic about being ready for the start of the 2010 season.
At 6'4" and 360 pounds, Kris Jenkins is a space-eating run-stuffer who is capable of anchoring a defense and was sure to be one of the main cogs in Rex Ryan’s blitz happy schemes.
Unfortunately for Ryan and the Jets, Jenkins tore his ACL during the team’s Week Six overtime loss to the Buffalo Bills, and he missed the last 10 weeks of the regular season as well as the Jets' run to the AFC Championship game.
Coming into training camp, Jenkins is reportedly in great shape after dropping over 30 pounds, apparently thanks to following a cookie diet.
But weight loss and weird diets aside, the massive nose tackle just turned 31 years old, will be going into his 10th NFL season, and will be coming off major knee surgery heading into the 2010 season.
If there’s a player in the league who can overcome the odds, it might very well be Jenkins, whose strength has allowed him to be one of the most dominant defensive lineman in the league for the last few seasons, and whose presence could turn an already stout Jets defense into the best in the league.
In a lot of ways, Brian Urlacher’s wrist injury was a metaphor for the Chicago Bears' 2009 season.
Going into 2009, both the Bears and Urlacher were predicted to have great success thanks to productive offseason work.
The Bears had added star quarterback Jay Cutler, who was seen as the missing piece to the Bears finally having a dynamic offense to pair with their traditionally strong defense.
Meanwhile, Urlacher was finally healthy after battling back and neck injuries, and looked to have a bounce back 2009 season.
But during the team’s opening game against the Green Bay Packers, Urlacher dislocated his right wrist and was lost for the season.
The Bears would meet a similar fate in 2009, as Cutler struggled through his first season in Chicago and the team posted a disappointing 7-9 record.
One of the most consistent linebackers in the NFL should be ready to go for the start of the 2010 season, and Urlacher will be looking for some redemption both for himself as well as the entire Bears team.
The Madden cover curse seemed to have struck again in 2009, as Polamalu only managed to play in five games last season.
The iconic Steelers' strong safety suffered a sprained MCL in the teams opening game of the 2009 season against the Tennessee Titans.
Polamalu returned four weeks later, only to sustain another injury to the same knee which forced him to sit out the rest of the season on doctor’s orders that playing would jeopardize his career.
Missing their Pro-Bowl safety, the ferocious Steelers defense seemed to have lost some of its bite, and the team managed only a 5-6 record without Polamalu, failing to make the playoffs.
Rather than opting for surgery, the former USC standout decided to rehab his knee in the offseason, and it appears that he will be fully healthy and ready to play in 2010.
With all of the Ben Roethlisberger controversy swirling around the Steelers organization, Polamalu and a revitalized defense look to have people talking about the team on the field in 2010 rather than what may or may not have taken place at a bar in Georgia.
Daniels was on the fast track to becoming one of the best tight ends in the league midway through the 2009 season.
He was coming off of a solid 2008 effort, which saw him grab 70 catches for 860 yards, and he was Matt Schaub’s second option in the potent Texans passing game behind Andre Johnson.
Through the first seven games of the 2009 season, Daniels had hauled in 39 catches for 497 yards and five touchdowns, numbers which put him among the elite of NFL tight ends.
But during Houston’s week eight game against the Buffalo Bills, Daniels tore his right ACL while fighting for a few extra yards, which caused him to miss the remainder of the season.
Rehabbing serious knee injuries isn’t anything new to Daniels, as he had previously torn his left ACL in high school and both his left ACL and MCL in college.
While Daniels may be familiar with the rehabilitation process, it won’t make anything easier, and he was placed on the physically unable to perform list earlier this week.
Daniels and the Texans are optimistic that he will be ready to go for the first game of the regular season, but for now he’s stuck on the stationary bike.
Although almost everyone focused on the Vikings' high powered offense, the team’s defense had a very solid 2009 season as well.
One of the biggest reasons why was because of middle linebacker E.J. Henderson, who was on his way to eclipsing the 100 tackle mark before breaking his leg during the team’s Week 13 game against the Cardinals.
Henderson’s injury was one of the more violent NFL fans had witnessed all season, so it was no shock that he missed the rest of the regular season as well as all of the playoffs.
Without the 30-year-old veteran linebacker in their lineup, the Vikings' defense struggled to find a suitable replacement at one of its most crucial positions.
Aside from his production, the team also missed Henderson’s veteran leadership, and it was obvious during games against Carolina and Chicago late in the season that this was not the same defense that had helped the Vikings get out to a 10-2 start.
The good news for Vikings fans is that Henderson did not start training camp on the physically unable to perform list and has been an active participant thus far.
It certainly seems like Henderson will be back in the middle of the Vikings' defense in 2010, where he will be looking to pick up where he left off in 2009.
The 2009 season was a lost one for the Washington Redskins feature back, as Portis dealt with the lingering effects of a concussion he suffered against the Atlanta Falcons, which caused him to miss the final eight games of the season.
Partly because of the injury, Portis put up the worst numbers of his otherwise stellar career, amassing just 494 rushing yards and only one touchdown before he was injured.
In recent years, the NFL has taken a much more serious stance on the potential dangers of concussions, and many players who suffered similar injuries to Portis also missed significant amounts of playing time in 2009.
Portis, who will turn 29 just a few days before the 2010 season starts, should have something left in the tank to help the new look Washington offense.
But he will certainly compete for playing time, as he will now be part of a backfield that also features veterans Larry Johnson and Willie Parker.
The former second-round pick out of Miami was cleared to resume practicing in April and he looks to team up with his old friend, Mike Shanahan, for another successful season in 2010.
Even before Kampman tore his ACL in the Packers' Week Nine game against San Francisco, his 2009 season wasn’t going very well.
The impressive defensive end, who had registered 37 sacks in the three seasons prior to 2009, made the switch to outside linebacker as Green Bay made the transition to a 3-4 defense.
It would appear that the change didn’t agree with Kampman, who had only registered 2.5 sacks heading into the Packers ninth game of the season.
The good news was that Kampman registered a quarterback takedown in Week Nine, but his injury caused him to miss the last six games of the season.
In the offseason, the former fifth-round pick and two-time Pro Bowler signed a four year deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars, who will be returning Kampman to his natural position on the defensive line.
There’s no doubt that the toothless Jaguars' pass rush needs all the help they can get, as the team managed only 14 sacks last season, which is the fifth-lowest in NFL history.
Kampan underwent surgery in December, and while he missed mini-camp as well as OTA’s, he began practicing with the team. Still, the Jaguars will be limiting his work load as he continues on his way to a full recovery.
By now, Colts fans have to be a little tired of hearing about Sanders' injury troubles, as the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year has only played in eight regular season games during the last two seasons.
Perhaps Sanders' checkered injury past can be attributed to his hard hitting style of play combined with his small stature (standing only 5'8"), but there’s no doubt that the Colts are a better defensive unit when Sanders is on the field.
In 2009, Sanders' season debut was slowed by knee surgery, which kept him out of the first five games. After returning in week seven, the embattled safety would play only two games before a ruptured biceps tendon ended his 2009 season for good.
However, 2010 does seem to be bringing good news for Sanders, who recently declared that he’s as healthy as he’s been in a long time, and he was seen practicing in full with the Colts earlier this week.
There are few players in the NFL who are as good as the Pittsburgh Steelers' Aaron Smith, who get as little recognition as the 11-year veteran.
But if you ask any serious Pittsburgh Steeler fan about how important Smith is to the team, they’ll probably tell you that he might be the only player on the Steelers team that is truly irreplaceable.
Smith isn’t going to get a ton of sacks like many other defensive ends, but his specialty is playing the run and helping the Steelers control the line of scrimmage while their linebackers terrorize opposing team’s quarterbacks.
So, it was a huge blow to their 2009 hopes when Smith went down with a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder after the Steelers' week-five victory over the Detroit Lions.
Without the 6'5" 300-pound defensive end, the Steelers stumbled to a 6-5 record for the rest of the 2009 season and failed to make the playoffs.
Much like Troy Polamalu, Smith will be looking to return to the field in 2010 with hopes of turning the Steelers' defense back into one of the most feared units in the league.
The four-time Pro Bowler, who’s one of the most exciting players to watch when he has the ball in his hands, had a pretty frustrating 2009 season.
He had to endure Jake Delhomme’s poor play and subsequent benching, as well as Matt Moore’s transition to starting quarterback.
As if dealing with inconsistent quarterback play wasn’t enough, Smith also broke his left forearm while catching a touchdown pass in the team’s last game of the season against the Giants.
As far as football injuries go, this wasn’t incredibly serious, and Smith was expected to be ready in time for the team’s off-season workouts, until the 31-year-old wide receiver broke the same arm playing flag football in late June.
Despite this injury going down as one of the more unfortunate and bizarre turns of the Panthers offseason, Smith has stated that he will be ready to play come September 12th, which should be good news for a roster that is starved for talent at wideout.