Philadelphia Eagles Tackle Winston Justice Facing Career-Threatening Surgery

Bob Cunningham@BCunningham215Senior Analyst IFebruary 21, 2011

PHILADELPHIA - NOVEMBER 08:  Offensive tackle Winston Justice #74 of the Philadelphia Eagles blocks Bradie James #56 of the Dallas Cowboys at Lincoln Financial Field on November 8, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

Winston Justice's disappointing game against the Green Bay Packers in the Wild Card round of the 2010-11 NFL playoffs could be his last game for quite some time, and possibly ever.

Justice is currently on his way to Alabama, where he will have knee surgery done by Dr. James Andrews. Andrews is regularly regarded as the very best at such procedures, but even his expertise and talents might not be able to save Justice's career.

The surgery scheduled is an arthroscopic procedure to clean up a bone chip in Justice's knee—something the Eagles incorrectly diagnosed as a hyper-extended knee in the team's 34-24 win over the Houston Texans in Week 13—but could turn into something much more serious.

Dr. Andrews says he won't know until he is inside Justice's knee, but if the injury is severe enough, Andrews could be forced into performing microfracture surgery—something that has been known to severely diminish or even end NFL careers.

Victor Abiamiri, a second-round pick of the Eagles in 2007, underwent microfracture surgery in 2009 and was forced to miss the entire 2010 season. The Eagles also had J.J. Arrington in camp this year, and he also had a somewhat-promising career derailed by microfracture surgery.

If Justice gets lucky and only the clean-up is required, he's looking at a recovery time of about three weeks to a month and will be back to full speed before the flowers start blooming.

The severity of the injury also gives Justice an excuse for his poor play down the stretch. He's far too classy a guy to ever use it, but his play against the Packers becomes much more understandable.

Justice injured his knee in Week 13, and then sat out the next two games. He returned to play against the Minnesota Vikings but, like the rest of the team, did not play very well. He then sat out the season finale against the Dallas Cowboys as the team had nothing to gain.

That brings us to the Eagles' Wild Card matchup against the Packers.

Yes, he got beat in that game pretty badly, but given the fact that he was playing with a bone chip in his knee, it's a wonder how he wasn't beaten even worse by a guy like Clay Matthews.

Players are always going to want to play. It's up to the training staff, doctors and coaches to decide whether or not he can go, and from the sound of it, Justice had no business playing in that game.

I would liken this situation to Brett Favre's 2008 season with the New York Jets. After stellar play for the first 11 games, Favre hurt himself and looked like a scrub in the final five. But instead of everyone admitting that it was likely the injury that caused the drop-off, Favre was simply written off as washed up.

Favre's MVP-worthy 2009 season made a lot of those people look pretty foolish, and assuming microfracture surgery is not necessary, I expect Justice to do the same sort of thing with the same type of rebound in 2011.

However, if microfracture surgery is needed, the question changes from whether or not the Eagles should select a right tackle in the first round to "which right tackle do they select in the first round?"