In the middle of a normal Thursday afternoon, NFL fans were rocked with some bad news out of left field: Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson tore his ACL in practice.
The last time we saw Watson, he was making NFL history in an all-time great shootout with Russell Wilson. Now, his great rookie season is over. Just like that, with a non-contact injury in practice.
Watson might have been the best story of the first half of this NFL season. It brought to mind some other shocking injuries to stars, ones that deflated any fan of NFL football, since 2000:
Teddy Bridgewater, 2016
Bridgewater was a good, young quarterback entering his third season for the Minnesota Vikings, then all of a sudden there were reports of a serious leg injury for him in practice and ambulances taking him away from the Vikings’ facility. Bridgewater suffered a knee injury so bad, there was a fear he’d lose his leg. About 14 months later, he still hasn’t returned to play for the Vikings.
Bridgewater tweeted his support for Watson on Thursday.
Damn @deshaunwatson this one hurt . You’ll be back better than ever young .
— Teddy Bridgewater (@teddyb_h2o) November 2, 2017
Robert Griffin III, 2012
Griffin is the worst-case scenario when we hear about a young quarterback suffering a major injury. Griffin had one of the best rookie seasons ever in 2012. He brought hope to a Washington Redskins franchise that needed it. But then-Redskins coach Mike Shanahan left him in during a playoff game even though it was clear Griffin was having trouble moving, and on a dropback Griffin tore his ACL. Griffin was never the same, and he is currently out of football.
Tom Brady, 2008
In 2007, Brady had one of the greatest individual seasons in NFL history and the Patriots were one of the best teams in NFL history. They lost in the Super Bowl, so they were motivated for 2008. But in the first quarter of the season opener, Chiefs safety Bernard Pollard hit Brady low and tore Brady’s ACL. Less than 15 minutes into the season, the NFL had lost its reigning MVP and biggest star.
Peyton Manning, 2011
Nobody knew that when the Indianapolis Colts lost 17-16 to the New York Jets in a playoff game at the end of the 2010 season, it would be Manning’s last game with the Colts. Manning had multiple neck surgeries that offseason, missed the entire 2011 season and was released when the Colts got the first overall pick of the 2012 draft, which became Andrew Luck. (And yes, the constant speculation and curiosity about Manning’s neck feels very similar to what we’re experiencing with Luck’s shoulder this year.)
Michael Vick, 2003
All major preseason injuries are rough, but this one was a huge blow to the Atlanta Falcons and the NFL. Coming off Vick’s amazing 2002 breakout season, he broke his leg in a preseason game while being tackled on a scramble. Vick, like Watson this season, was the most exciting young player in the NFL. He didn’t play until Nov. 30 that season.
— Michael Vick (@MichaelVick) November 2, 2017
Kellen Winslow, 2005
Winslow was the sixth pick of the 2005 draft and although he had an injury-filled rookie season, he was a promising and exciting star for the Cleveland Browns. Then in May of 2005 Winslow was riding his motorcycle in a parking lot, hit a curb and flipped over the handlebars. He suffered a torn ACL and other injuries, and also developed a staph infection. He missed the entire 2005 season. Although Winslow returned and had a solid career, including a Pro Bowl season, we’ll never know how great he could have been had it not been for his accident.
Ben Roethlisberger, 2006
Roethlisberger didn’t miss any playing time due to his motorcycle accident in June of 2006, but it was shocking news when it happened. Roethlisberger wasn’t wearing a helmet when his motorcycle hit a car at an intersection. He suffered injuries including a broken jaw and nose, but was back for preseason games. He did struggle that season, which could have been related to the accident.
Derek Carr, 2016
The Raiders were cruising to their first playoff appearance since the 2002 season when Carr was sacked and he broke his leg when it was pinned awkwardly underneath him. That ended Carr’s season, and the Raiders lost their regular-season finale and their playoff opener to the Texans.
Tony Romo, 2016 and Drew Bledsoe, 2001
We’ll lump these two together because of what happened next. Bledsoe suffered a torn blood vessel in his chest and had to be taken to the hospital after a hit by Jets linebacker Mo Lewis. That opened the door for Tom Brady to become the Patriots’ starting quarterback, a job he still holds. Last preseason Romo suffered fractures in his back when he was tackled in the preseason. That injury seemed like it would ruin the Cowboys’ season, but Dak Prescott stepped in and won NFL offensive rookie of the year, and also significantly changed the franchise’s course.
Carson Palmer, 2006 and 2014
Palmer has torn his ACL twice, at the worst possible times. The first came when he was hit low by Pittsburgh Steelers defensive lineman Kimo von Oelhoffen on his first pass in a playoff game for the Bengals. The Bengals lost that game. Then in 2014, the Cardinals were 8-1 but Palmer tore his ACL in their ninth game. Palmer was having a fantastic season before the injury. Without him the Cardinals still made the playoffs but were defeated in a wild-card game against Carolina.
J.J. Watt, Aaron Rodgers, Odell Beckham, 2017
In an eight-day stretch this season, the NFL lost three of its biggest stars. Beckham fractured his ankle, Watt broke his leg and Rodgers broke his collarbone. That’s a lot of star power for the league to lose. Little did the NFL know that a few weeks later, Watson would be done for the season too.
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