Throughout the years there have been a large number of NFL players who have struggled with injuries throughout their professional career. Some were really good players who never reached stardom due to injuries every season. Some were able to have long careers despite being on the injury list every other season. Some were forced to end their careers early because of injuries.
This article is dedicated to the most injury prone players in NFL history. I did not go really far back in time, but tried to keep it close enough that the viewers would be able to remember the players and their careers. Not all of the players on the list are playing and some of them are starting to fade away from memory.
This past offseason, we saw a trend of younger players retiring, either from injuries or the fact that they felt the risk of injury wasn't worth a professional football career. The NFL more than any other major North American sports league, is full of players that have short careers. The average career is just three years. Some of these players were able to play through injuries, while others kept missing playing time because of them.
One thing they all have in common?
The unfortunate label of "Injury Prone" after consistently having injuries throughout their NFL careers.
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15 Jake Locker
Jake Locker's injury plagued NFL career is the reason why Marcus Mariota is now the Titans quarterback. Locker's four year NFL career was one injury after another. After sitting behind Matt Hasselbeck in his rookie season, Locker took over in the 2012 season. He would suffer a tear in his non-throwing shoulder in Week 4 and missed almost two months of action. In Week 4 of the 2013 season, Locker was carted off the field after taking a hit from two Jets players. He would miss three weeks with a hip injury. A few weeks after his return, Locker suffered a Lisfranc foot injury, ending his 2013 season.
In 2014, Locker kept getting plagued by the injury bug and was eventually placed on injured reserve. He retired from football this past March, citing a lack of desire to keep playing the game.
14 Darren McFadden
There was a time when te Oakland Raiders fans were raving about Darren McFadden and his incredible athletic ability meshed with NFL talent. That was a long time ago though and McFadden has since become known as an injury prone player in the NFL.
Through his first four years in the NFL, McFadden missed a total of 19 games due to injury and continues to have injury problems to this day. He is on the Cowboys, but was injured again early in camp and just came back off the PUP list.
He had one great season back in 2010 and even then he only played in 13 games because of injuries. Maybe the fact that he will be sharing carries with Joseph Randle this season will help McFadden stay away from injuries, but history says different.
13 Chad Pennington
Chad Pennington had a long string of bad luck with injuries throughout his career that could not have been scripted if you tried. On the field, off the field, it did not matter. He would somehow manage to get hurt and it would often be an injury that kept him off the field for a season at a time.
He is the only player on our list, and in NFL history, to win two NFL Comeback Player of The Year Awards. To make it more impressive, he was able to do it twice in three years which is incredible and at the same time shows his bad luck with injuries.
Pennington could have had a really good career and possibly done some great things in the playoffs had injuries not ended his best season and then his career early.
12 Reggie Bush
Reggie Bush, when fully healthy, is one of the most dynamic players in the NFL and can make some truly spectacular plays in the open field. If only he had a couple of full seasons without injuries, maybe his career would be different right now.
His rookie season showed his massive game changing potential and he was able to play a full 16 games that year. Unfortunately, from 2007 to 2011 he missed a total of 21 games and since then has continued to get banged up and miss games.
He's on the 49ers this year and already got hurt in the first game of the season. With the emergence of Carlos Hyde, they're likely not rushing him back anyway.
11 Robert Griffin III
While his current absence from the Washington Redskins' starting lineup now appears to be a coaching decision, injuries have plagued RGIII since the end of his outstanding rookie season and is as big a reason as any why his days in Washington appear numbered. Since suffering that devastating knee injury in the Skins' playoff loss to Seattle, he has missed over half a season's worth of games due to further injuries. His style of play left him vulnerable to injuries, and no matter where he plays next year, he'll have to change some parts of his game to last.
10 Michael Vick
Speaking of a reckless style of play, Michael Vick embodies that more than perhaps any other quarterback in history. Being the electrifying quarterback he was, he took a lot of big hits when perhaps he should have learned how to slide or run out of bounds more often. His injury woes started with a fractured fibula prior to the 2003 season, which caused him to miss 11 games.
In Philly, Vick suffered an injury to his rib cage only weeks after being named starter over Kevin Kolb. An injury in the 2012 season then saw Vick lose his starting job to the upstart Nick Foles. In 2013, Vick's injury woes continued, as Foles eventually took the starting job over and his 27 touchdown, two interception season forced Chip Kelly to keep Foles in.
The Steelers now need Vick to stay healthy for the next few weeks, as their franchise QB Ben Roethlisberger is already on the shelf.
9 Jeremy Shockey
Jeremy Shockey had the potential to be a great NFL tight end for a long time, but throughout his entire 10 year career, he was never able to play a full 16 game season. Injuries truly plagued Shockey and, sadly, something happened to him every season.
Teams at some point had to game plan for him to only be available for part of the season and prepare a solid backup just in case. After 10 years of injury plagued seasons in the NFL, Shockey went unsigned after the 2011 season, despite only be 32 years old.
8 Ben Roethlisberger
Big Ben is still playing well heading into his 12th NFL season and looking to build on his legacy this year with a stout offense including Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell. Despite his stellar career, Roethlisberger has an enormous injury history list which often has multiple injuries in the same season.
However, Big Ben is a warrior and plays through injuries on a regular basis just like he has throughout his career. Sometimes it seems like every game he is recovering from an injury whether his shoulder, hand, knee, toe....you name it.
He's now out for the next few weeks.
7 Anthony Gonzalez
Gonzalez had what seemed to be a very bright future with a lot of potential after playing well during during his first couple years in the league. Unfortunately, he was one of the players who never really got deep into his NFL career because of injuries and eventually was forced to call it quits after only 5 seasons.
Out of the 5 NFL seasons Gonzalez was able to play a full 16 games only once and it was his best year when he had over 600 receiving yards with 4 touchdowns. Not huge numbers, but it was only his second year in the league at the time. The potential was there, the hype was there, the health was not and that is the story of Gonzalez.
6 Bob Sanders
Sanders is definitely the MVP of the "injury prone" NFL team and has the numbers to prove it. Not only was he unable to play a full 16 game season throughout his career, but he compiled an astounding 78 games missed due to injuries as well. 78 games......some NFL players don't even get the opportunity to play in 78 games when 100% healthy. Sanders managed to get paid quite a bit of money and played less than 40% of his career.
It is unfortunate, because when Sanders was in his prime and not riddled with injuries he was a star in the making. At some point he was in discussions for best safety in the league. Injuries finished off his career and his last four seasons in the league he was on the IR list.
5 Brian Westbrook
Westbrook was a solid two way back who could run it well and make big receiving plays out of the backfield. He was a great fantasy football addition even though he was unable to play a full 16 game season throughout his career.
When he was in his prime during 2006 and 2007 Westbrook put up some incredible numbers going over 2,000 all purpose yards in 2007. He almost did that a few times in his career and certainly would have if the injuries weren't so consistent.
Too many concussions toward the end forced him to leave the game earlier than he probably would have otherwise. He was definitely fun to watch though.
4 Kris Jenkins
Kris Jenkins was one of the premier interior defensive linemen in his NFL career. There was no in between when it came to Jenkins' health. He'd either play the full season, or he'd suffer an early season ending injury. He missed 52 games in his 10-year career. His last two years in New York were disastrous from a health perspective. Wile playing some of the best football of his career, Jenkins suffered a torn ACL midway through the 2009 season. His comeback the next season was cut short, as he tore the same ACL in the Jets' opener against the Ravens. That would be the last game of his career.
3 Troy Polamalu
Polamalu was an incredible safety and will go down as one of the greatest (if not the greatest) safety to ever play in the NFL. I am certain that he will be inducted in the NFL Hall of Fame as well.
All of his great accomplishments came through a career of injuries on a consistent basis, especially from 2006 till the end in 2014. Through that time span Polamalu missed a total of 25 games due to injuries and was eventually forced to retire after the 2014 season.
He is one of the most talented players on the list which is why he comes in at number three. (Plus he has the nicest hair)
2 Ed Reed
Reed was a scary player to line up against. He was the definition of what we call a "ball hawk" which is typically used for the best shutdown corners in the league. Reed was a safety and arguably the best one ever to play right next to Polamalu.
Like Polamalu, Reed had a lot of injuries throughout his career, especially towards the end. He missed 18 games over the last two seasons and 28 games over the final six years of his career. If he hadn't missed so many games, his legacy would be even greater.
1 Sam Bradford
The question marks surrounding Sam Bradford's ability to stay healthy started in college, following an AC joint sprain suffered in his junior season at Oklahoma. The Rams took him first overall and that reputation followed him in St. Louis. He only missed six games through his first three seasons, but his last two are what gets him on the list, as he suffered a torn ACL midway through the 2013 season, then another in preseason action last year. That led to the Rams trading Bradford for Nick Foles. We'll see if Bradford can shed this label in Philly.
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