Carter’s career ended before it began (Associated Press)
Athletes who suffer severe knee injuries tend to contemplate suicide. After all, a damaged joint could equate into millions of dollars in lost income. Along with the financial pain, tearing an anterior cruciate ligament (or two) can hinder an individual’s agility, balance and explosiveness. For running backs, years may pass before an NFL workhorse can replicate his performances previous to an ACL problem.
This season, Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles and Rashard Mendenhall are notable backs returning from ACL tears, and they hope to remain effective as before. We should look to history to sense the size of the mountain these ball carriers must climb to mount their comebacks.
Brand and Kaman are reunited (Getty Images)
I meet too many kids who despise used toys. My Hot Wheels showed damage, but they got the job done.
The same truth applies to NBA big men in their 30s. The mileage on athletes’ bodies can be offset by greater familiarity with NBA tricks and schemes. The accumulated wisdom of Elton Brand and Chris Kaman attracted the attention of the Dallas Mavericks, who have failed to replace Tyson Chandler’s towering presence. Brand and Kaman, 33 and 30 years old respectively, are slowing down in a young man’s sport, but they hold a wild card. The duo banged low together at an All-Star level with the Los Angeles Clippers for five seasons, and bring invaluable experience to the Mavericks. More importantly, their styles of play will mesh with the current roster, and ease the pressure off Dirk Nowitzki to carry the squad on another playoff run.
Donovan McNabb and Terrell Owens are looking for work (Bennett Raglin/WireImage)
I blame President Obama for failing to create enough jobs in the NFL. With training camp on the horizon, many former starters find themselves out of work. Why are these players no longer in demand? Fault injuries, age discrimination, bloated salaries and toxic attitudes. Athletes can’t stay in their prime forever. What these guys really need is a hug.
Here is a list of the ten best remaining NFL free agents. In the right environment, these players have a reasonable chance to reclaim their past glory. But they come with question marks.
Jackson and Pete Carroll in mini-camp (Associated Press)
Life isn’t fair for underprivileged children, but wishing for new parents is a useless exercise. For Tarvaris Jackson, his NFL career has been the epitome of irresponsible team management. Yanked in and out of the starting lineup, the quarterback could never establish a rhythm and build momentum during a disappointing five-year Vikings career. After signing with the Seattle Seahawks, Jackson displayed marginal improvement, but again finds his role in jeopardy. While Jackson will tell you that external support is welcome, he understands that his own work can save his job.
Thornton resides on the bench (Associated Press)
The Bayou Bomber is not familiar with mercy. His contested jump shot shanks opponents’ souls. In the basketball life, Marcus Thornton knows his offense can win games in dramatic fashion. Entering his third season in Sacramento, fans have fallen in love with his fearless fourth quarter demeanor.
While the Baton Rouge native can lay claim to be an exceptional scorer, his presence has muddled the future of 2009 lottery pick Tyreke Evans. The enormously talented but inconsistent Evans shares the same natural position as Thornton, so Kings management continues to speculate whether the two shooting guards can coexist.
The answer is yes, but to avoid the stagnation of ball movement, it would be wise for one player to accept a bench role. That man should be Thornton, because he plays with a chip on his shoulder. Thornton can redefine the sixth man role and reshape his legacy by finding the humility to start a game sitting down.
Williams at a charity event (Getty Images)
Marvin Gaye Williams is looking for love. With a seductive smile, the 25 year old Washington native has no need to count physical blessings. Seven years into an NBA career, the second overall pick of the draft remains an enigma, still working for his first season to average fifteen points. Making matters worse, Deron Williams and Chris Paul were drafted third and fourth respectively, and stand today as franchise cornerstones for the Nets and Clippers. An Atlanta fan base that prayed for the next Carmelo Anthony is ready to file a divorce, blaming the underachieving small forward for the Hawks’ recent playoff struggles. In defense of Williams, his coaching staff never asked him to shoulder the offense, and as a result he found a niche as a reliable role player. But Williams must take responsibility for the slow progression in his game, if he hopes to fulfill the potential his remarkable athleticism will allow.
I love to eat french fries, fried chicken, and cheeseburgers. Doctors warn me that excessive fast food consumption leads to obesity, so I’ve scaled back my diet in an effort to live longer. Obese men can rarely claim to be phenomenal athletes, but big Ted Washington defied the stereotype. A 6’5”, 370 pound nose tackle, Washington dominated NFL trench lines for seventeen years. By the age of 39, he retired as a Super Bowl champion, and stands today as the modern prototype for his position.