A risk, maybe, but the way Chip Kelly looks at it, the odds are in his favor.
Before breaking for the summer, the Eagles head coach sat down with reporters for an hour-long roundtable session. As you would imagine, Sam Bradford was a pretty popular topic of conversation.
“We looked at everything, and we knew we weren’t going to pick No. 1 or No. 2. So, and I’ve said it before, if you’re not going to pick one or two, how do you go get a quarterback?” said Kelly, explaining the thought process heading into this offseason. “Peyton Manning switched teams because of an injury. Drew Brees switched teams because of an injury. So we went down that path.”
When it came to Bradford, the Eagles doctors consulted with the St. Louis trainers and the those that performed the surgery. The word they received was that the 27-year-old, coming off the second tear of his left ACL in less than a year’s time, “was fine” and “was progressing.” Further, there was no cartilage issues in the knee. On both occasions, it was just the ACL that was damaged.
The Eagles did their own independent research as well and reached the conclusion that when it comes to ACLs, there is a 10-to-12 percent chance of re-injury.
“So that’s an 88-to-90 percent chance that they’re going to be successful,” said Kelly.
Back in May we spoke with Dr. James L. Carey, Director of the Penn Center for Advanced Cartilage Repair and Assistant Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. He cited studies that show the probability of re-tearing a reconstructed ACL is about three to six percent. (Those studies were on the general population, not just football players.)
Meanwhile, the chances of tearing the other knee — or the “native ACL” — is higher, around nine to 12 percent — closer to the figures that Kelly used.
Either way, the stats show that there is a pretty good chance that history won’t repeat. The idea was to take a shot on a QB with upside who probably wouldn’t be available if not for the injury history, and hope he ascends to the level of the elite. The Brees example is one that Kelly referred to on multiple occasions, like when he was asked about the possibility of Bradford being skittish in the pocket given what he’s gone through over the past two seasons.
“That’s happened, but I’ve also seen quarterbacks like Drew Brees come back with 25 staples in his shoulder and everybody said he would never play again. Ask the Miami Dolphins what the history of their franchise would be like if their doctors didn’t fail him on the medical. You don’t know. Maybe Nick Saban is still coaching in the NFL. You don’t know. But that’s a risk we were willing to take. You know it’s a risk, but it was a risk we were willing to take.”
Brees ended up in New Orleans instead, of course. He’s missed just one game in nine seasons with the Saints, and that was in the regular season finale of their 2009 Super Bowl season when the team decided to rest all the starters. He has appeared in at least 15 games in 12 of his 13 seasons since his rookie season.
Bradford, on the other hand, has played just seven games over the past two seasons because of the knee injuries, and was hampered by a high ankle sprain for much of the 2011 season and missed six games. Couple those ailments with the shoulder injury at Oklahoma, and the evidence seems to suggest that Bradford is injury-prone. But to Kelly, that doesn’t make him unique.
“I’ve said it before – everybody gets hurt in this game. I don’t know any quarterback who hasn’t missed time, right now. Tom Brady missed a year, Peyton Manning missed a year, Drew Brees has missed time, Nick Foles missed half a season, I mean, Aaron Rogers has been hurt. I don’t know if there’s any quarterback in this league that hasn’t been hurt. And if you haven’t, you’re probably young. That’s the deal. You’re going to get hurt in this game, and it’s part of coming back from it.
“I think everybody in the NFL is 100 percent injury prone. Jeremy Maclin, two ACLs. Jason Kelce had an ACL and sports hernia surgery. Our left tackle [Jason Peters] had two Achilles. Our middle linebacker [DeMeco Ryans, two Achilles]… you can go on and on and on. I don’t know if there’s anybody in this league who isn’t injured. That’s just part of the deal.”