Near the beginning of the third quarter of Saturday’s Seahawks victory over the Carolina Panthers Paul Richardson went down awkwardly on a deep pass attempt and immediately clutched his left leg.
After the game Pete Carroll cautiously offered a pre-diagnosis of a sprained knee for Richardson, but Sunday morning the news came out that a nightmare everyone thought they averted was in fact a reality – Richardson tore his ACL. Richardson has already torn the ACL in his left knee. He tore it in college when he played for the University of Colorado.
Fortunately for Richardson and the Seahawks, ACL surgeries have basically kept paces with the meteoric rise in success rate of Tommy John surgery in Major League Baseball. We’ve seen players recover from ACL injuries as good as ever, and also faster than ever in recent years. Notably, Adrian Peterson recovered from ACL surgery in eight months. For some perspective, Adrian Peterson tore his ACL in December 24, nearly three weeks earlier in the season than Richardson’s injury.
Peterson started Week 1, and that was a complete shocker. He was also effective, which was also a complete shocker. It’s common for an ACL tear to require 12 months to recover, and even players who are able to come back within a year rarely return to form immediately.
With that in mind, it seems incredibly unlikely that Richardson starts the season active. If the Seahawks put him on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, he’ll have the first six weeks of the season to get healthy before the Seahawks have to use a roster spot on him. Another option is to put Richardson on injured reserve with the designation to return. However, the team can only designate one player this way, and the ability to have players on a 53 man roster or on injured reserve designated for return is a privilege offered to teams who are relatively healthy.
Considering the volatile nature of player health in the NFL, there is a distinct possibility that the limited contributions that Richardson figures to offer in 2015 after coming back from injury may end his season before it starts.
Unfortunately, this could reverse the development we’ve seen from Richardson so far this season. Richardson caught 15 balls in the last four weeks of the season, after a mostly pedestrian beginning to the season that included few targets and a couple weeks where he was inactive on game day.
If Richardson did miss the 2015 season, the Seahawks could go into 2016 with Doug Baldwin entering free agency, and Jermaine Kearse entering unrestricted free agency, though Kearse is a restricted free agent this offseason. With the prospect of a healthy Richardson in 2015, many think that the Seahawks would make a large investment of some kind in a wide receiver. With Richardson doubtful for Week 1, the team will likely double down on these efforts, which is only bad news for Richardson.