Most fans of the NFL are familiar with those soul-crushing moments on screen when a player collides with another, witnessing an injury that you know will put your favorite player on the bench for the rest of the season. However, sometimes players demonstrate great determination and resiliency by bouncing back from significant injuries that may have seemed career-ending at the time. Sometimes these setbacks can change the course of a player’s career — but not always.
Here are five examples of key NFL athletes who have battled their way back to the field, overcoming their injuries and dominating regardless of their setbacks.
Starting with one of the most recent injuries on our list, Terry Bridgewater suffered a serious injury to his left leg during a team practice in August of 2016. An MRI later showed that his ACL was torn along with his knee joint being dislocated. The 2014 Vikings first-round draft pick didn’t start playing full-time again until this very season, recovering from his injuries just in time. As his current team the Panthers are projected to succeed in the playoffs with good NFL betting odds, Bridgewater is a vital asset to the group’s success.
A starting linebacker for the Minnesota Vikings, E.J. Henderson suffered a pretty serious injury during a game against the Arizona Cardinals in the 2009 season. Henderson was attempting to tackle a member of the opposing team when he hit another player’s helmet head-on and broke his left femur in the process. In the hours after the injury, Henderson was admitted to the Phoenix hospital for surgery and was consequently out for the rest of the season. Thanks to the miracle of medicine, the Viking was able to have a titanium rod inserted into his leg which aided him in a remarkable recovery. He went on to play two more seasons and even made it into the Pro Bowl. Henderson’s injury and comeback is one that will certainly be remembered throughout NFL history.
Robert Edwards of the New England patriots is known by many for an intense injury he sustained while playing in a beach flag football game. The multi-faceted injury consisted of three torn knee ligaments in the ACL, MCL, and PCL. Additionally, major nerve damage was caused and most severely, a slice in the artery of his left leg. He was told by doctors that his leg may need amputation, and even at the rare chance of him being able to walk again, playing in the NFL was most likely out of the question. However, in a miraculous turn of events, Edwards stepped onto the field again two years later. Even though his return to the NFL only lasted until 2008, Edwards is known by many as the ultimate example of a player who beat all the odds to make a stunning comeback.
Frank Gifford suffered from an extreme injury when Eagles linebacker Chuck Bednarik hit him hard during a game way back in 1960. He was consequently out for the rest of the season and removed from the field on a stretcher. Doctors informed Gifford that he had a spinal concussion, but he returned to dominate just two years later and played another three seasons. He is known by many as the ultimate New York Giant, a MVP in 1956, eight-time Pro Bowl selection, and a member of the American Football Hall of Fame.
Detroit Lion Bobby Layne was on his way to a third Super Bowl victory in 1957 when he broke his leg in three different places in a regular season game that landed him on the bench. The Lions ultimately traded him over to the Pittsburg Steelers, but he overcame his injuries and played five additional seasons. Layne, considered by many to be one of the best quarterbacks the NFL has ever seen, has been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the College Football Hall of Fame.
These are exceptional athletes who have overcome some seriously difficult moments to salvage their careers. However, there are countless examples of players from a variety of sports who, despite their physical agility, weren’t quite able to make it back. Normally a decision that they never want to take, as former defender of Barcelona FC Jeremy Mathieu stated earlier this year after suffering from many accidents over the course of his career, sometimes there is no other option. Whether they’ve fought their way back or have decided to hang up the towel, athletes who sustain injuries while playing the sports we love to watch should have nothing but our utmost respect.