The future of Jimmy Graham is a hot topic — not just his future with the Seahawks, but the mere prospect of him playing in the NFL for much longer.
Pete Carroll does not seem concerned, but a recent report by ESPN.com reiterated the severity of a torn patellar tendon — the injury Graham suffered in late November — and questioned whether the tight end will be able to make it back.
ESPN injury expert Stephania Bell cited a recent study saying players with TPTs “fared the worst when it comes to rate of return to play and performance metrics like yards gained and touchdowns scored. And their careers were shortened overall significantly. It’s not to say that one individual can’t come back and be phenomenal, but it’s telling you that the odds are against them in terms of returning to form.”
Of course, the Seahawks are all about bucking the odds, and there are reasons to believe Graham will overcome the injury better than previous players.
As we said in February, it really comes down to avoiding the dreaded second injury that often accompanies TPTs. Running backs Correll Buckhalter and Cadillac Williams suffered tears in both knees in consecutive seasons during the 2000s, and wide receiver Victor Cruz suffered a calf injury last year as he was trying to come back from his TPT.
A couple of things are on Graham’s side: (1) The Seahawks have one of the best medical staffs in the NFL and are very conservative with injured players; (2) Graham is a tight end whose greatest asset is his 6-foot-7 height, not his jitterbug moves.
Carroll is optimistic (yeah, big surprise) that Graham will make it back for the season opener Sept. 11, but you can bet the docs will have a huge say in whether he does as they look to his long-term health.
In late June, Carroll said Graham was actually ahead of Thomas Rawls (broken ankle) in his recovery, but the coach did not rule out either player starting camp on PUP.
“Whether it’s the first day of camp or not, or it’s PUP or whatever, we’re going to have to wait and see how these six weeks play out,” he said, pointing out that they were still 12-13 weeks away from a game.
Carroll said he “absolutely” thought Graham and Rawls would be ready for the season. “They would have to incur some issues that we can’t foresee right now for that not to happen.”
As for the future, previous studies by the Mayo Clinic and UC Davis found that most players suffering TPTs can return to their pre-injury abilities. Buckhalter was one good example: He missed the 2004 and 2005 seasons with torn patellar tendons but played four effective seasons after that.
Graham, 29, is signed for two more seasons with the Hawks, and his recovery, performance and ensuing health this coming season figure to determine whether the team wants to try to keep him and let him prove he really is an exception.