David Chao, the former team doctor for the Chargers, says playing on short rest on Thursday night had nothing to do with the Achilles injury.
You can’t question his passion, nor can you question his toughness.
Playing 105 straight games in one of the most brutal leagues in the world is a testament to his grit.
But after rupturing an Achilles tendon he thought could go at any time, is it fair to question Richard Sherman’s judgment?
That’s something I wondered after the most damning Seahawks injuries of the season. Knowing Seattle’s ultimate goal is the Super Bowl, wouldn’t it have been prudent of Sherman to rest a tendon he felt was on the brink of tearing?
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So I called David Chao, the former team doctor for the Chargers who regularly tweets about NFL injuries under the handle @ProFootball Doc. His thoughts? Sherman didn’t do anything wrong.
“Achilles pain doesn’t mean tearing it is inevitable,” said Chao, adding playing on short rest on Thursday night had nothing to do with the injury. “And waiting a week or two wouldn’t have necessarily made it better. He might have had to wait six weeks to two months.”
After the game, an emotional Sherman told reporters he never considered sitting out. He noted how “every game matters” and that he owed it to his teammates to play.
Asked if team doctors tried to talk him out of it, he replied “doctors have tried to talk me out of playing for years.” Which made me think that, this time, he should have heeded their advice.
But Chao said that, despite Sherman’s concerns about an inevitable rupture, the odds of it happening weren’t particularly high. He added that prolonged rest wouldn’t have necessarily prevented a tear later in the season.
Dr. Andrew Elliott, an orthopedic surgeon from New York’s Hospital for Special Surgery, agreed.
“This was not an overuse type of thing,” he said.
Perhaps Sherman would have been stubborn with a different injury that required immediate rest. This didn’t appear to be that type of injury, though.
What happened Thursday was an unfortunate occurrence for a Pro Bowl cornerback playing through pain. And now, with Sherman out for the season, his team’s fans are feeling an ache of their own.
So what’s next?
Kobe Bryant was never the same after tearing his Achilles. Arian Foster played just four games after his.
A study that looked at five years of Achilles ruptures in the NFL from 1997-2002 found that the average player took 11 months to return, 50 percent saw a decrease in performance and 32 percent never returned to the league.
It isn’t the worst injury a player can have, but it is a frightening one.
That said, Chao said he doesn’t think Seahawks fans should be freaking out just yet.
“I’d be more worried about him if it were an ACL, because with that you’re usually not feeling 100 percent until your second season back,” he said. “I don’t see this ending his career. If it were my team, I’d still be excited to have him.”
Elliott said athletes who return from an Achilles rupture tend to be a touch slower. That’s rough considering cornerback is typically a position centered around speed.
But Sherman — who ran a pedestrian 4.56 40-yard dash before being drafted — never made his money out-quicking everyone. He made it by outthinking them.
It’s hard to know how Sherman will perform when he returns as a 30-year-old next season. Obviously, it would be better for the NFL if one of its most recognizable and charismatic figures came back at full strength.
The Achilles is tricky, though. Recovery is a guessing game. Sherman is likely a little nervous right now.
But he doesn’t have any regrets about suiting up Thursday night — nor should he.
It was a terrible outcome, but the right choice.