Up until the last ten years or so, a torn ACL for a player most likely meant the end of their career. At a minimum, it meant missing up to a year or more and never being the same player again. As times have changed, the medical industry has made huge advances and now we are seeing players like Adrian Peterson return better than ever after less than 12 months of rehab. Since January, every Redskin fan has known the fate of the 2013 Washington Redskins hangs in the balance of the reconstructed right knee of their star Quarterback.
The media coverage has reached a fever pitch, with us getting almost constant updates of what Robert Griffin III is able to do that week. There was the footage of him walking up to the podium with little more than a limp to receive his Rookie of the Year trophy only a few weeks after his surgery. Lately, there was a picture of him swinging a golf club and another video of him jumping up and down at the Redskins Draft party. This is all very exciting and gives us hope that Griffin will be 100% ready to go by September.
While Griffin's knee is certainly the most famous and by far the most of singular importance, he is only one of several Redskins who suffered season ending ACL injuries last year. The list is as follows:
Safety: Brandon Meriweather
Defensive tackle: Chris Neild
Safety: Jordan Bernstine
Cornerback: Chase Minnifield
Running back: Chris Thompson (draftee)
Other than Chris Thompson, the rookie speedster out of Florida State, every player on this list resides on the defensive side of the ball. The other connection between these players is they are all guys who could substantially make the team better if they are able to completely recover.
Brandon Meriweather had just come back from a strained PCL and played what had to be the best first half of his career against the Eagles in week 11 when tragedy struck. He had seven tackles, two passes broken up and one interception when his right knee betrayed him and the torn ACL occurred. There was no doubt the entire secondary seemed to play at a higher level for those fleeting two quarters Meriweather was on the field. His experience and leadership should help Phillip Thomas and Bacarri Rambo in their development and give the defensive backfield a seasoned veteran to guide the younger safeties. The team likely has high hopes for his return.
Chris Neild, Jordan Bernstine, and Chase Minnifield are all young bucks who have flashed brilliance at certain times. Neild started his NFL career in 2011 with 2 sacks in his first game in a victory over the Giants. He is built like a bull and has shown he can be a real force against the run. Bernstine made the squad as a 7th round pick in 2012 and then tore almost all things ending in "-CL" in his right knee on kickoff coverage in his first game against the Saints. His abilities playing safety have not been fully tested but he is hopeful to have a shot to earn some playing time this year. Then there is the curious case of Mr. Minnifield. He caught the eye of several coaches during last years OTA's and seemed primed to have a chance to make the team. Unfortunately, he was doomed by a torn ACL suffered late in a June minicamp and disappeared before training camp started with no more than a whisper. He did enough, however, during those minicamps to have the team keep him around to see if he can come back and impress them again.
Finally, running back Chris Thompson was taken in the 5th round of this year's draft. He fell to the 5th round because of a torn ACL suffered in his left knee against Miami last season. After watching only a few highlights of his short college career, it is obvious he can be a lightening rod when healthy and is a threat to take it to the house every time he touches the ball. He has the potential to be the third down back the Redskins have been seeking, and his rumored sub 4.4 speed and cutback ability makes him extremely dangerous when healthy.
With all of these ACL injuries to be watched and rehabbed, the team is certainly wise to have Dr. James Andrews on staff. While surely they could do without his radio appearances to announce how "superhuman" the "way ahead of schedule" Griffin is, the knowledge and experience he brings to the table is a priceless commodity for a team trying to get so many players back from a once career derailing injury for next season.