Training camp is one of the most demanding aspects of playing pro football. It challenges player’s mental and physical limits as they compete against one another for roster spots on their respective teams. It starts with over 90 players on each roster. The number gradually decreases from then on out as players struggle to maintain their spot while learning the playbook and building a rapport with their teammates. It comes as a bit of an adjustment to those who aren’t yet used to its vigorous demands. But it’s not just rookies who succumb to the pressures of an NFL training camp, veterans too have their moments where it looks as though the heat and constant physical activity wears them down. This can lead to serious injury.
It’s normal to lose players to injury throughout the course of an NFL season. Part of the game is dealing with guys getting hurt. In turn this creates opportunities for other players to step up and taking charge. But no one wants to loose people during training camp. Between practices and preseason games, there are a lot of opportunities for players to get hurt. Some injuries only last a few weeks, others can last months. The absolute worst thing to happen to a team is losing a key piece during this time. It creates a great deal of uncertainty as the season draws closer and comes at a time when the draft is over and the free agent pool is greatly depleted.
An injury at this time can change a team’s outlook for the year. The players themselves have to begin a recovery process that may or may not have them back in shape by the time the next season rolls along. With their years essentially done, all these guys can do is watch from the couch while someone else is doing their job. It might not be fair but it’s a part of the game and creates opportunities for exciting newcomers to burst onto the scene. There are always a few every year, but their success comes at the cost of losing a teammate.
15 Arian Foster
The Texans runner sustained a back injury in August of 2013 and never got over it for the rest of the season. After missing a chunk of OTAs. Foster didn’t participate in Houston’s training camp that year after injuring his back during that time. The Pro Bowl back was coming off three consecutive 1,000 yard seasons and was one of Houston’s biggest weapons on offense. But the injury he’d sustained in August stuck with him for the remainder of the year. While he did manage to put up some good numbers, Foster was placed on IR halfway through the season, leaving Houston without one of their key difference makers.
14 Dustin Keller
After spending years with the New York Jets, Dustin Keller decided to take his talents to the division rival Miami Dolphins and looked like he’d be a young weapon for developing quarterback Ryan Tannehill to lean on. Along with the recent addition of Mike Wallace, Miami picked up two explosive new weapons during the offseason. Keller had established himself as a receiving tight end with the Jets, catching over 200 passes for 2,000+ yards over the span of five years. But he never made it to the regular season, injuring his knee in a preseason game against the Houston Texans. He tore his ACL, MCL and PCL while also dislocating his knee. The Dolphins, who only had Keller under a one year contract, put him on IR ending his career as a Dolphin before he got the chance to make an impact.
13 Percy Harvin
Percy Harvin hasn’t produced too well since being traded by the Vikings. In the two seasons after he was traded, Harvin has failed to amass anything close to 1,000 receiving yards. His downward spiral began after being traded to the Seattle Seahawks in 2013. Harvin was supposed to be Seattle’s number one receiver as well as serve as their return specialist. But a hip injury sustained during the offseason forced Seattle to put him on the PUP list to begin the season. His biggest contribution to the team that year was a kickoff returned for a touchdown in the Super Bowl. It was one of two games he’d played in that year. While the team hoped Harvin would contribute sometime during the regular season he managed only one catch in 2013. His stint in Seattle lasted less than two year and the team shipped him off to New York in 2014.
12 Terrell Thomas
After coming off two very good seasons that saw him total close to two hundred total tackles and ten interceptions, Giants cornerback Terell Thomas tore his ACL in a preseason game against the Bears in 2011. Thomas was a leader on the Giants” secondary, as well as one of its fiercest run stopping defensive backs. His rehab went well and he was ready to return the following season but again injured himself – this time at a training camp practice – and was lost for the year. The injuries were big for New York who had to count on backup’s stepping up both seasons. The last time Thomas played was in 2013, once again for the Giants where he was healthy for some of the season and contributed to the Giants struggling secondary that year.
11 D’Qwell Jackson
After a fantastic 2008 campaign, Browns linebacker D’Qwell Jackson was set to be one of the league’s top defensive talents, but an injury six games into the 2009 season put him out for the year. Brown recovered nicely and was primed for a comeback in 2010. Except he tore his right pectoral muscle during training camp, costing him yet another season. The injury was a tough pill to swallow for the Browns – who didn’t have too many elite players on their roster to begin with. Jackson’s injury might’ve not been the entire reason Cleveland went 5-11 that year, but losing their young leader on defense certainly played a role in it.
10 Dennis Pitta
Fresh off wining their second Super Bowl, the Baltimore Ravens were looking to maintain their status at the top of the footballing world. With Quarterback Joe Flacco at the helm, one of Baltimore’s biggest weapons was their tight end, Dennis Pitta. Pitta is one of those freak athlete tight ends that seem to be in demand these days. Pitta was injured in an end zone collision during training camp and was initially thought to be lost for the year. He did return to the field eventually, but at that point the season was almost over and Pitta failed to make the impact he was expected to make at the beginning of the season.
9 Jamal Lewis
During his rookie year Jamal Lewis played a key part in the Ravens Super Bowl run. Having let go of quarterback Trent Dilfer, the Ravens were counting on Lewis to carry to offense during his sophomore campaign. However, the young running back had his season cut short by injury during training camp. What’s more it was during the inaugural episode of HBO’s Hard Knocks episode. Lewis might’ve missed the 2001 season but he bounced back in 2002 and added a 2,000 yard effort to his resume the year after.
8 Chris Spielman
After spending a decade with the Buffalo Bills and Detroit Lions, Chris Spielman had already established himself as one of the NFL’s most punishing defenders. But in 1998, he left the NFL in order to take care of his ailing wife, a story that touched many across the league. He returned to the NFL a year later and signed with his home state Cleveland Browns to add a tough veteran presence to the team. However, in a preseason game against the Bears, Spielman collided helmet-to-helmet with a lineman causing him to lie on the field, temporarily paralyzed. He eventually got up but was lost for the year and retired from the NFL a few days later.
7 Ki-Jana Carter
Many people label Ki-Jana Carter as one of the NFL’s biggest draft busts but to be fair, his career got off to a bad start. The Penn State runner was selected first overall in 1995 by the Cincinnati Bengals. There was plenty of hype surrounding Carter as he was expected to make an immediate impact for whichever team he landed on. So Bengals fans eagerly watched to see what the young running back would do in his rookie year. But on his third carry of his first preseason game, Carter tore his left ACL without being touched. He returned and would play seven more unproductive seasons with three different teams.
6 Elvis Dumervil
Elvis Dumervil put up career numbers in 2009 with 17 sacks. Dumervil, with the Broncos at the time, was coming into 2010 with a brand new contract and high expectations. Sadly, he tore his pectoral muscle in training camp and was forced to miss the remainder of the season. His absence hurt Denver badly, as they went 4-12 and finished last in the NFL in total defense, giving up an average of 30 points per game. They did get Von Miller in the next draft and both he and Dumervil made a fearsome edge rushing combo the two years they were together in Denver.
5 Osi Umenyiora
Despite coming off a miraculous Super Bowl run in 2007, 2008 was not the most fortunate year for the New York Giants. They lost Michael Strahan to retirement, Plaxico Burress infamously shot himself in the leg and the team lost Osi Umenyiora for the year in a preseason bout against the New York Jets. At the time, Justin Tuck had just earned the starting job over Umenyiora and while talented, Tuck was still unproven as a fulltime starter. Umenyiora was the team’s only Pro Bowl player going into that season. His loss as a player and leader were felt throughout the year. It was one of the worst ways to kick off the 2008 Giants season and served as a warning for what was to come for the franchise.
4 Michael Vick
Some people don’t believe in the “Madden Curse,” but there is a case to be made for its credibility when you look at the misfortune that struck most of the athletes to have graced its cover. Just look at Michael Vick. The speedy gunslinger looked like the real deal going into his third season as a Falcon but broke his fibula in the first quarter of a preseason game in 2003. Though not bad enough to end his season entirely, Vick missed a substantial portion of Atlanta’s 2003 campaign. By the time Vick returned to the team, they were 2-9 and the season was pretty much over.
3 Sam Bradford
After a solid rookie year, Sam Bradford’s NFL career has been consistently heading towards a downward spiral he will hope to avoid in Philadelphia this year. He’s only played in all 16 games twice in his four year career. His sophomore year in the NFL saw him miss six games while his 2013 campaign was ended by a torn ACL in his left knee midway through the season. Before he could get back to leading the Rams in 2014, Bradford once again injured the same knee in training camp. Now with the Eagles, injuries essentially drove him out of St. Louis and with training camp approaching, Philadelphia fans are hoping he can but his injuries behind him and play.
2 LeCharles Bentley
LeCharles Bently played well enough with the New Orleans Saints to earn two Pro Bowl nods. By the time he was a free agent in 2006, he was considered the top free agent available and was rewarded with the highest ever contract for a center at the time. A Browns fan growing up, no one was surprised that he’d signed with the team. Before he ever got to take a snap with Cleveland, he injured himself and was lost for the year. The injury came on the first 11-11 scrimmage of training camp. He required four surgeries and developed a Staph infection that hindered his attempts at a comeback. He retired in 2009 and later sued the Browns organization, claiming he’d contracted the Staph infection at the Browns facility.
1 Darryl Stingley
Coming off a career year in 1977, New England Patriots wide receiver was set to do big things in his sixth NFL season. The Patriots were set to sign him to a new contract that would’ve made Stingley one of the highest paid players in the league. New England hadn’t yet announced the deal but planned to after the team’s preseason bout against the Oakland Raiders. However, on a six yard slant Stingley was struck by Raiders defender Jack Tatum. The hit not only ended Stingley’s NFL career but confined him to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.