By Tom Keppeler, Knee1 Staff
When running back Marshall Faulk won the National Football League's MVP award Wednesday, his doctors must have shaken their heads in disbelief.
It was not that the 211-pound running back did not earn his 2,000 yards this season, or that anyone can disregard his 26 touchdowns this season. Faulk, the 1999 Offensive Player of the Year, did, however, undergo surgery this year.
Faulk dropped off the starting line-up just before Week 9's battle against the Carolina Panthers. Complaining of a locked-up knee, Faulk said he tried to stretch through it but could not. Soon thereafter, doctors removed loose bits of cartilage from his right knee.
The Rams sprinkled Faulk into their plays over the next few weeks while he rehabilitated the knee—a dramatic shift from his usual large amount of playing time.
Faulk, now apparently recovered, rebounded to score 11 touchdowns and amass 572 yards in the past three games. Despite missing one full game—and most of two others—he still garnered nearly half of the votes in the panel decision for league MVP. He joins teammate and quarterback Kurt Warner, who won last year's award.
Perhaps more impressive, Saints defensive end Joe Johnson rebounded from surgery on both knees, as well as his back, to garner the Associated Press' Comeback Player of the Year Award yesterday. Johnson was an all-pro defensive end in 1998, amassing 70 tackles and seven sacks, according to the Associated Press. In 1999, just before the season began, however, Johnson ruptured the patellar tendon in his right knee and missed the entire season.
During rehabilitation from the major surgery, Johnson ruptured a disc in his spine. Upon his return, he injured his left knee and required arthroscopic surgery to remove bits of torn cartilage—his third surgery in a year.
At the time, a contributing editor at ProFootballWeekly was asked if Johnson would play this season. "It’s unrealistic to think Joe Johnson can get back to where he was in 1998 one year after the type of knee injury he had," he replied. Johnson proved him wrong. He rebounded to stabilize the team's line-up, turn last year's 3-13 floundering into a 10-6 season and the NFC West title. His 12 sacks did not hurt, either.
Johnson told the Associated Press he did not begin feeling healthy until mid-season. "I could feel it and I could see it on film," he told the AP. "I was rusty… It took a lot of hard work and repetition, sticking with it."
If Johnson and Faulk are any indication, technology has bettered the outlook for many injured players. Before less-invasive surgical techniques came about, the procedures Faulk and Johnson had to undergo would have ended their careers in the NFL. Were it not for the benefits of quick, less painful surgery and, thus, quicker recovery, this year's Comeback Player and MVP awards would probably have passed over these two players.
Image courtesy of ESPN.com.