The ACL factor

As training camps start to draw closer, we will begin to talk about players who had offseason surgery, their timetable for a return and of course, the speculation on whether or not they will be able to produce in the 2010 season.

Two players in particular I want to see are WR Wes Welker of the Patriots and TE Owen Daniels of the Texans. Two guys who are counted on heavily in the offensive scheme of both clubs—and two guys that are coming back from ACL surgery.

Unlike the past, the ACL injury isn’t a death sentence to an NFL player. It is manageable and with the proper rehab and treatment we should expect to see players back on the field the following season.

As for the production? Cloudy is the best way I can put it.

We will read plenty of reports on both Welker and Daniels in the coming weeks and throughout the month of August in camp, but the regular season will tell us if they are back or not.

I had one of my own in the 2004 season. A torn right ACL against the Ravens in Week Five. Had the surgery, rehabbed and was back for 2005. But, I would be lying if I sat here and told you everything was great—because it wasn’t. The swelling, the daily maintenance, the pain and the lack of explosion I felt when the knee got tired. And, this was with the best rehab I could get from the Redskins training staff.

Unfortunately, it is natural. It wasn’t until my last season in Buffalo during training camp, the season after that I felt normal. Yes, the tightness was still there—as it is today—but I felt more like an athlete, instead of a player coming off of a major knee injury.

That is why we can’t predict or guarantee results with Welker and Daniels. I expect them both to show confidence and talk like they are back (athletes always think positively), but can they do the same things that we are accustomed to seeing this season?

Can Welker still play that role inside of the numbers for the Patriots and Tom Brady on offense? Can he still be a matchup issue for safeties and nickel corners? With Daniels, more of the same. He is a weapon for Matt Schaub and one of the reasons the Texans are tough to prepare for schematically as an offense.

I want to say yes to these questions, but I know better. It is a long road back from an ACL injury and the rehab itself actually carries over the following season. These two will be out there, and they will make some plays for their clubs. And, they can be accountable. That ACL repair is solid, it isn’t going to tear again. There shouldn’t be concern that the knee is unstable.

However, the questions will still be there. In time, they will be back to full strength, but we can’t bet on that in 2010 just yet.

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