With one awkward landing, a fantastic grimace and the collective gasp of hundreds of thousands of fans, Jamaal Charles effectively dashed this town’s playoff hopes against the rocks of reality.
Okay, so I’m being melodramatic.
This season was likely lost before Charles’ knee turned into a quivering mass of gelatin early in Sunday’s game. Had he not gone down, and had all of the stars that were rapidly plummeting to earth remained securely tucked in the heavens, this was still nothing better than an 8 win team. At absolute best. But truthfully, they’d been shaving wins off of the turkey’s carcass before the season even started.
Tony Moeaki gone in the preseason.
Eric Berry gone after one game.
And this, the final nail in the coffin, the fat lady singing her greasy heart out, her arteries clogged by years of barbecue-abuse. So we chalk it up as a lost cause, a “Suck for Luck” campaign that is gaining traction with each passing Sunday. The real concern, though, is that of the future.
The anterior cruciate ligament is nobody’s punk. Short of complete and total paralysis, it’s the biggest nemesis of most speed-based skill players in the game. While a quarterback may not have as big an issue with rehab and the healing, it’s a much more daunting task for a running back or a safety to transcend.
And there have been those on this site that are crowing that this means the end of Charles and Berry as we know them; that we’ve seen the best they’ll ever give… perhaps, that they’ll never play again.
This could be true.
But it goes without saying: everybody is different. With modern medical advances, a torn ACL– even in its most severe incarnation– isn’t necessarily the death sentence that it was back in the days of ballplayers named ‘Bronco’ and ‘Youngblood.’ Today’s professional athletes are much better equipped to handle such violently devastating injuries. Oh sure, Charles may never be the insane speedster that we were privileged to watch these past few years, but in all honesty, he may still be a pretty good fucking halfback.
So before we link arms and tandem-jump from the roof of the spooky, soon-to-be abandoned AMC building, let’s take a quick peek at some others who suffered similar injuries and how they fared in overcoming their ACL uh-ohs.
Edgerrin James— whose teeth are up 100% since his retirement in ’09—tore his ACL in 2002 and averaged 1,280 yards per year in his next six seasons.
Willis McGahee suffered an ACL tear while in college and has had a respectable seven year career featuring three seasons where he eclipsed the 1,100 yard rushing mark.
Jamal Lewis tore his in college as well. In a nine year pro career, he averaged 1,178 yards per season including a lunatic-like 2,066 in 2003.
Wes Welker tore his in the last game of the ’09 season. Though it was anticipated he’d be far from ready by the start of 2010, he ended up playing in 15 games, catching 86 passes for 848 yards.
Braylon Edwards had an ACL injury in 2005. Though he hasn’t quite lived up to his original expectations, he caught 80 passes for 1,289 in 2007. Oh, and his ACL didn’t affect his ability to drink and drive, so that’s nice.
Antonio Cromartie tore his in 2005… and, well, he’s Antonio Cromartie, one of the better cornerbacks in the game. Additionally, his malady didn’t put a damper on his dingus. A prolific procreator, he has 9 children with 8 women in 6 different states—talk about some stats!
Roman Harper, Saints safety, started all 16 games in 2007 after tearing his ACL midway through the ’06 season. He’s a subsequent two time pro-bowler and Super Bowl champ.
Warren Sapp’s vicious facemask take-down caused Jerry Rice to tear his in 1997. Over the next five years, he averaged 80 catches per, for an average of 1,028 yards.
Look, I know there’s an argument to be made—that the running backs named were less dependent on finesse and speed than our hero. And that’s true. But the fact of the matter remains, even if Charles fails to recapture the entirety of his abilities, he’s still got a chance to be a very dangerous back.
Here’s the science and math behind all of this, all broken down in one simple equation:
Jamaal Charles at 80% > Thomas Jones at 120%.
There. Now don’t you feel a little better?