Injuries are a frustrating and persistent aspect to playing sports. Whether or not humanity will ever reach an era in which injuries are a thing of the past is either unknown or science fiction but in our lifetimes, we see plenty. For some players they see plenty without having to look past the training tables they’re constantly sitting on top of or laying down on.
The LA Chargers have been through this recently with tight end Hunter Henry, a 2016 second round pick who has flashed all the ability that could make him the NFL’s highest-paid player at his position but only in sporadic doses and separated by a missed season in 2018. Doing the best that they could do at the moment, which is optimistically enter a one-year franchise tag agreement with Henry for 2020, the Chargers are hopeful that in a few years they’ll view him in the same manner that they view Keenan Allen.
As a person who not only overcame the “oft injured” tag, but practically erased it from his history.
On Saturday, the team came to a four-year extension agreement with Allen that is expected to pay him over $20 million per season. The only receivers above or in that range are Julio Jones, Amari Cooper and Michael Thomas. Allen put himself into that $20 million conversation by averaging 101 catches, 1,263 yards and six touchdowns per season over the last three years.
With zero games missed.
In the 2018 playoffs, Allen caught six passes for 112 yards and a touchdown in LA’s lone postseason game that year. He’s been consistent in both his play and his health and the Chargers were quick to make him and Joey Bosa their franchise cornerstones with extensions over the last month. Bosa has played in a full 16 games in two of the last three years, but he too will attempt to put injury concerns behind him after missing nine games in 2018.
Allen had the most extensive injury history between himself, Bosa and Henry but has kept these setbacks in his past:
- Sprained PCL during final season at Cal in 2012, causing him to miss the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine workouts.
- Frustrations during his first camp with the Chargers and getting no playing time in Week 1 caused him to consider quitting football. A shoulder issue put him on the injury report two times that season but he finished with 71 catches for 1,046 yards and eight touchdowns, one of the best rookie seasons by any receiver in history.
- In 2014, Allen broke his collarbone and missed the final two games. His numbers were also down, catching 77 passes but for only 783 yards.
- On his way to dominating the 2015 season with 725 yards in only eight games, Allen missed the second half of the year with a lacerated kidney.
- Signed a four-year, $45 million extension with the Chargers and expected to take his place among the NFL’s best receivers, Allen tore his ACL in Week 1 against the Chiefs and missed the rest of the year.
- 2017-2019: We good.
Four years ago, Allen was entering a season in which he could have been Michael Thomas before Michael Thomas but then he tore his ACL. It was a crushing blow for a player who had already missed 10 games in the last two years and was showing signs of becoming elite if not for injuries. He erased the injuries and now he’s got to be considered a Michael Thomas during Michael Thomas.
I bring this up only because I know how frustrating it can be to follow players who can’t quite seem to get past the injury hump. Derwin James will now miss 27 of a possible 32 games over two seasons. The Chargers organization has seen too many episodes like that with key players. Allen has managed to be steady for three years now and is only 28.
He’s a great reason for optimism with James, Henry and any other player who inevitably will find themselves in a tough position because of injury.