The Vindication of Michael Vick
It has been a hell of a year in the NFL for 2010. If you’re a Vikings fan, next year couldn’t come sooner. If you’re a Rams fan, well it’s about time they start winning! The list could go on as a lot of teams are experiencing new success and new faces that are changing the levels of competition amongst teams. Coaches hold the key to much of the responsibility for the unpredictability amongst the NFL and who is a contender and who is a pretender. Sometimes it just boils down to that one player who is a difference maker and is making loud noise behind the scenes. Certain players are making huge impacts. Some you are familiar with, some have risen from the ashes like a phoenix and are seeking career resurrections with new teams. These are the comeback kids, the players who were in the cellar and had no purpose here, but have emerged with heart and fought up-hill battles to return to the gridiron in hopes of establishing the ladder half of their careers. Here is my list of players worthy of comeback player of the year award based off their journey that lead them back to where they started.
E.J. Henderson: (Linebacker) Minnesota Vikings
Most of us remember the season ending injury to linebacker E.J. Henderson and prefer not to see the gut-wrenching blow to his knee trying to make a tackle as he collided with a teammate. He snapped his femur on that play in a loss to the Cardinals on December 6th. He had surgery that night as a titanium rod was inserted in his leg to stabilize the bone. It was a horrific sight. The impact made it a career threatening injury due to the severity of the break.
Defeat was not an option for E.J. After 2 straight season ending injuries, he was determined more than ever to return to the field. He entered training camp hungry to compete and ready for the challenge. He took his rehab to heart in the off season and never allowed negativity to be a factor. His teammates were awed by his work ethic to get back into football shape in time for the next season. This inspired confidence for the rest of the locker room to look at E.J. as a great example if such tragedy were to fall on one of them. After extensive off-season rehab, grueling hours of dedication, a rejuvenated training camp, and a ferocious pre-season, he is back in Purple and contributing on the field at full health with the highest energy level possible. This is a marvelous story of adversity for one player’s motivation to endure a painful career threatening injury, then to fight through it and prepare for the next season in peak condition despite the tremendous set back. E.J. Henderson suffered the worst of any of these players on this list and deserves some credit for his efforts to return to the game he loves, football.
Terrell Owens (Wide Receiver) Cincinnati Bengals
This to me is more of an on-going comeback story. Ultimately, it seems have T.O. has learned to be humble and take care of business on the field while keeping quiet off the field as far as distractions and antics go. He did not fit well with Buffalo, a relationship that never materialized and it was good for both sides to move on. Fortunately for T.O., he found a home that was fit for him. He thrives in the Bengals passing game lined up next to Ochocinco every Sunday. His numbers are exceptional for his age as he shows us he still has all the talent of a #1 WR in the NFL. The great thing is, he’s done well and isn’t flapping his jaw or adding distractions to the locker room. This makes for a great revelation for a player that was on his final straw to make any kind of impact again in the NFL because of his attitude and center of attention antics. T.O. is looking to end his career the right way as a player.
LaDainian Tomlinson (Running Back) New York Jets
I will buy in to his comeback story, however, I will make my case that he is of the lowest of the players selected to write about. He may get a lot of looks and credit for his attempt to resurrect his career, but it is in small comparison to what everyone of these players on this list went through in contrast to his very own journey this season. LT used to be the best fantasy football back and most electric player to watch in the NFL for many years. He made his reign in San Diego and set the single season record for Touchdowns in a season with 28 rushing, 3 receiving (31 Total).
After several successful seasons and eye dropping statistics, he quickly began to deteriorate, placing his starting position in jeopardy. Eventually the Chargers parted ways with the franchise back and put him on waivers. It came down to the Vikings or Jets and he chose the Jets. He has since enjoyed a good season. He looks fresh and rejuvenated. His numbers are up and his leadership is essential in the Jets locker room. This will help a young team as they look to go deep in the playoffs this season. This makes for quite a remarkable impact to a new team in need of a veteran in the offense.
Brandon Lloyd (Wide Receiver) Denver Broncos
He started his career as a promising prospect with the San Francisco 49ers. His best season came in 2005, where he had 700+ yards receiving and 5 TD’s. He has never caught more than 26 balls since that break-through season. The following season he went to Washington and struggled to make any kind of impact to the team. In 2007 he gave Chicago a try before finding himself uninvolved and unemployed once again a few years later. He is small athletic route runner that saw great potential being over shadowed and a work ethic that was nonexistent.
Then Brandon found his way into Denver. In training camp he took advantage of learning from a veteran quarterback like Kyle Orton. His skills were fine tuned and his resurrection of his abilities sparked a new opportunity with a young franchise willing to give him some playing time. A lot of eyes were on since he was the replacement plan for departed star wide out, Brandon Marshall. Lloyd has lived up to the expectations and so much more. He is on pace to shatter every personal best record in his career. He’s on pace for his first 1,000 yard receiving campaign and multi TD season. He is emerging as the #1 wide receiver on the Broncos. He has proven to be an elite WR in the NFL, making for a great acquisition and contributor.
Mike Williams (Wide Receiver) Seattle Seahawks
This story is one of my personal favorites to learn about the turn-around Williams went through. Mike Williams was a stud coming out of college at USC. He put up huge numbers his freshman and sophomore years, catching more than 1,200 yards and scoring more than 14 TD’s each of those seasons. He was deemed ineligible the following season due to recruitment issues. (Honestly I won’t go in to detail because it’s the same pathetic story of a dumb NCAA scandal, that’s why I don’t watch college football) He decided to enter the NFL draft after he sat out his 3rd season of college football.
He was rated #1 on Mel Kiper’s draft board, which is a pretty big deal if you watch the draft. He slipped to #10 overall, selected by the Detroit Lions. He then went on to only score 2 TD’s and had less than 500 yards receiving in his first 2 seasons. He was traded to the Raiders in 2007 and cut later that season. The following year he joined the Titans only to be cut again because he apparently reported to camp at 275 pounds. It seemed as if his career was finished in the NFL.
In the beginning of the year, Pete Carroll took over as head coach of the Seattle Seahawks and instantly went and signed Williams, raising eye brows and serious questions about his ability to mold a professional team. (Carroll was the former coach of USC and that is where Williams played) He came to camp in shape and ready to tap in to his former potential. He learned the offense under the guidance of Carroll and has excelled behind a veteran quarterback like Matt Hasselbeck. He could post his 1st career 1,000 yard season and is playing for a team in contention of 1st place. Quite a remarkable break-through to save his career in the NFL as a valued wide out, something Seattle has been missing for some time.
Brian Urlacher (Linebacker) Chicago Bears
This one should not qualify as a comeback story. But I felt like writing it in because of how much he means to the Bears defense. Urlacher went down to start the 2009 season against the Green Bay packers. It was over just like that. They had such high expectations with Jay Cutler recently acquired. Last season was a forgettable one with Cutler and the Bears defense. They have never fared well without Urlacher on the field. He is the heart and soul of the defense and the team in the locker room. Since his return, the Bears find themselves as an improved defense with him back and they are in playoff contention at 6-3, first place in the NFC North. They have a long way to go, but you can tell a certain players return has made all the difference in the world to bring this team back to high hopes.
Here it is, the Comeback Story of the Year! This is the guy, this is the story, hands-down the best thing to talk about right now if you watch football religiously and understand what is truly happening right now in Vick’s world as well as in Philly. I have been watching football and comprehending it now for about 14 years. I saw the best football in my life in 1998 and 2007. What can I say? I am a sucker for the art of offense. What I saw on Monday Night Football was the most dominant, best performance I have ever seen by a Quarterback in the history of the NFL. Vick absolutely decimated the Redskins defense. His passes carved through their secondary like Swiss cheese. Not only was it the best game of his career, it broke a slew of records that may go untouched for decades to come.
Vick opened the flood gates at the sound of the hammer fall. The very first play of the game he hooked up with DeSean Jackson with a pin-point 88-yard strike right down the middle of the field that resulted in a TD. It made me jump off my couch and scream, literally. Vick completed 14 of 18 passes for 264 yards passing with 3 TD’s… in just the 1st half! To rub more salt in the wound, he slithered up and down the field for 66 yards on 6 carries and 2 TD’s ALSO, before halftime. The 2nd half was more of a slow bleed. Vick finished the game 20 of 28 for 333 yards with 4 TD passes and carried the ball 8 times for over 80 yards and 2 TD’s. (By the way, I was down 48 points in fantasy league and all my hopes rode on Vick’s shoulders. I was pleased to see him finish with 55 fantasy points, resulting in a 144-137 comeback win to keep my season alive.) The records Vick broke were no cake walks. It will be hard to top these off: Vick was the 1st player in history to throw 3 TD’s and run for 2 TD’s in the first half of a game. He is also the 1st Quarterback in history to throw for over 300 yards, rush for at least 50 yards, throw for 4 TD’s, and rush in 2 TD’s in a single game. Vick went on to say after, “I’ve had some great games in my day, but I don’t think I’ve had one like this.”
This was no football game, it was a 30 minute DRUBBING of the Washington Redskins. It was Mike Vick’s statement game to tell the world he means business as a professional as is ready to compete at the highest level, watch out! Let’s take it to the next level with Vick. If you watch Sports Center, you may have heard the Tom Brady interview regarding Vick. He drooled with praise about his performance and said he could see Vick being the best quarterback to ever play the game. I was astonished at how he handled himself on the field. The thing I enjoy most about football is watching the relationship between a coach and his quarterback and transpiring their connection into preparation for a game, then to have it take form and see execution on the field when it’s game time. A Quarterback is the center piece of an offense. There is nothing more exciting than seeing the leader of a team execute great drives and find ways to win because of fundamentals and adjustments made that are made throughout a game. I have seen the best of Brady and Manning. It has sent chills down my spine watching some of the heroic dominant games lead by amazing quarterback play. None can compare to what I saw from Vick. His mechanics were flawless and his timing was impeccable throwing out of the pocket. He can read the field better than anyone playing in the game right now and is learning quickly how to identify mismatches on the defensive side of the ball. Vick was changing play calls and encouraging teammates all game along. You could see it, the Eagles rallied around Vick and Reid sat on the side lines with a smirk on his face and let Vick run the show. If he was in trouble, he would take off running and eat up yardage since he is near impossible to take down one on one in the open field. He just owned so many elements of the game, taking control of every situation and it paid dividends. A star was born Monday night. Vick is here to stay in the NFL.
It was an embarrassment on national television for one team and their fan base, while it was the miraculous turn of the tide for one individual whom in the eyes of many, was done for in the NFL as an athlete. Those who thought that, boy were they wrong and it became clear as day that evening. How can one game change the opinions of so many fans and even warrant cries for an early M-V-P front-runner? Other than Monday’s contest, Vick has quietly put up a stellar season as a starting QB. He missed 4 games with injury. In the games he has played, he has thrown 11 TD’s/ 0 INT’s while throwing for 1,350 yards. He has also rushed for 350 yards while running for 4 TD’s. He is also coasting with a remarkable QB rating of 115. Let’s be fair and say if he had played all season, just double the #’s above and read them back out loud. FREAKISH! He would be the clear-cut MVP front-runner without a shadow of a doubt. So is it really that far off to predict with the addition of his leadership and amazing comeback to get in to the league and stick as a QB, rather than going back as a RB, which is what everyone was pushing him to do. It is a story book season thus far for Vick, and one can only imagine how much better it’ll get. We may be in store for a pretty memorable season for one player and his team that took him in when no one else would.
That is why Vick is the undisputed Comeback Player of the Year and has a legitimate shot as the NFL MVP of 2010.