October 14, 1996
In a Monday Night Football classic, the Packers pull out a victory on a 53 yard Chris Jacke field goal in overtime. The night was not without its heartbreak, as top WR Robert Brooks went down with a devastating knee injury, his ACL not spared.
September 11, 2005
In the season opener at Detroit, Packers WR Javon Walker was expected to piggyback off his Pro Bowl campaign in 2004. Some three hours after kickoff, he was sidelined with a freshly torn ACL and had played his final down with the Packers.
November 22, 2009
Al Harris, the focal point of one of the greatest plays in Packers playoff history, goes down with an ACL tear. He starts the 2010 season on IR and gets a well-earned Super Bowl ring. He finishes his playing career with the Rams and retires as a Packer. Thanks for the memories, Al. Because of you, I love hearing, “We want the ball and we’re gonna score.”
October 3, 2010
A week after getting hosed by a bogus pass interference call that ultimately gave the Bears a victory on Monday Night Football, rookie FS Morgan Burnett suffers a season ending ACL against the Lions. Fortunately, he recovers to put in a solid career with the team that continues to this day.
Packers Family Night 2013
Starting offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga blows out his ACL in the annual Packers Family Night scrimmage. The following year, the Packers adjust the format of Family Night from a scrimmage to a glorified night practice. Bryan Bulaga continues anchoring the right side of the offensive line to this day.
August 23, 2015
In a preseason game, Jordy Nelson pulls up lame running a route he has run thousands of time in his life. ACL. Done for the year. He walked off the field, but his emotion showed everyone that it was more than a tweak. Fast forward to 2016, and he put up numbers nearly identical to his 2014 Pro Bowl season. Interestingly, several receivers with much less impressive numbers get Pro Bowl berths, but Jordy gets none. History will show that Jordy’s 2016 season will be not only one of the most underrated for returning from an ACL blowout, but for a WR in general. Not many guys lead all WRs in touchdowns and are 5th overall in catches without making All-Pro or the Pro Bowl. Jordy Nelson put up an All-Pro season coming off an ACL tear. He is certainly not done and should deliver similar results in 2017, pending injury again.
ACL injuries are expected these days. The Packers have lost key personnel throughout the years, as we have chronicled, but this is not unique to Green Bay. Tom Brady, Jerry Rice, Von Miller, Darrelle Revis, come to mind for other HOF caliber talent that have suffered this dreaded injury.
With concussions being the main priority in today’s NFL, the ACL tear continues to be near the top in most concerning injuries. Multiple players have voiced that they would rather risk a head injury than a joint injury. For what’s on the line in their livelihood, it can be understandable, albeit controversial for us armchair GMs. A head injury is easier to hide and takes far less recovery time. Unless you’re an NFL superstar, you cannot afford to lose time and your job to the next man up.
Fortunately, the medical technology field is progressing with ACL treatment. For years, the typical ACL reconstruction procedure has involved taking a patellar tendon or hamstring graft to replace the torn ACL. However, a new procedure is taking fruition that involves a bridging technique that uses a scaffold and stitching to repair, instead of replace, an ACL ligament. With an injection of blood to stimulate the scaffold to bridge the torn ACL, the goal is to eliminate taking different tendons from the body to treat the injury. This would result in less recovery time and potentially less likelihood of aggravating the injury in the future.
While protecting the brain is paramount these days, the joints are not far behind. Ultimately, NFL franchises will be less prone to the devastating knee injuries that have become so commonplace, hopefully the Packers suffer less Jordy Nelson circa 2015 scenarios.
________________John Piotrowski is a UW-Eau Claire alum, spending most of his life in western WI. He makes the trek east to Lambeau whenever possible. Follow him on twitter at @piosGBP.