“It’s too early to tell” when Jimmy Graham will return from his torn patellar tendon, but we already know a few things: (1) The Seahawks are not going to get rid of the high-paid tight end this year; (2) they are probably going to take their time with his recovery; (3) he should be able to return to his previous standard of performance.
At the Combine on Wednesday, John Schneider said there is no timetable for the return of Graham, who is “doing great” while rehabbing in Miami.
“Obviously it was a devastating injury for us at the time,” Schneider said, “but he’s a great guy, got a great attitude about it, and he’s ready to get after it.”
Schneider said last month that Graham will be back with the Hawks — despite the wishes of some fans (in a Seattle Times poll, about 20 percent thought Graham would not be back).
The Seahawks’ MO always has been to let injured players recover, without altering their contracts, and then see how they perform the next season, so there was never any doubt Graham would be back. The question was and still is: When?
The answer is a function of the team’s philosophy regarding injured players: Be extra cautious. It’s why Jeremy Lane and Paul Richardson stayed on PUP last year and why Richardson was placed on IR with a hamstring injury even though he could have returned late in the season.
One of the big concerns with players who suffer torn patellar tendons (TPTs) is secondary injury. Running backs Correll Buckhalter and Cadillac Williams suffered tears in both knees in consecutive seasons during the 2000s. Wide receiver Victor Cruz suffered a calf injury last year as he was trying to come back from his TPT; he said the calf problem was caused by overcompensating for the knee.
If Graham can avoid the second injury, he should be able to return this year. Dallas cornerback Morris Claiborne — injured in September 2014 — was back for the start of 2015.
Graham was injured against Pittsburgh on Nov. 29; so, if the Hawks take their time with him to assure no related injury occurs, he might end up sitting out on PUP and returning in November — as Lane did last season.
Whenever Graham does return, there’s no reason to think the tight end won’t be able to perform as well as he had before the injury.
A study in the American Journal of Sports Medicine in 2011 revealed that 79 percent of players with TPTs come back to play within a year (19 of 24 from 1994 to 2004), and studies by the Mayo Clinic and UC Davis found that most players can return to their pre-injury abilities.
Buckhalter missed the 2004 and 2005 seasons but played four effective seasons after that. Williams missed 2007 and 2008 but tallied 1,035 total yards when he returned in 2009.
Graham, 29, was on pace to blow away John Carlson’s records for a Seattle tight end last season, and he should be able to play to that level again.
In the meantime, the Seahawks will endure a Graham Watch all offseason, mirroring the Paul Richardson and Lane trackers last year.