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15 NFL Players That Need to Get Healthy

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15 NFL Players Who Need to Get Healthy and Back On the Field As Soon As Possible

nfl
Jason Bridge-US PRESSWIRE

It’s no secret that the NFL is a demanding game, both physically and mentally.

In this sport, injuries are an unfortunate inevitability.

Every team in this league has a few key players banged up and playing through pain. Most teams have guys out for significant time, even through the rest of the year, with devastating injuries.

Some teams have been bitten by the injury bug harder than others, while other teams have gotten relatively lucky with injury woes.

Entering Week 7, I wanted to list 15 players who are trying to make it back onto the field for a team that desperately needs them back.

My criteria is simple. Any player who is already lost for the season is ineligible for this list. That means no Darrelle Revis or Santonio Holmes for the New York Jets, for example.

However, players such as Beanie Wells or Ray Lewis, designated by their respective teams for a possible return later in the year, are eligible by my standards.

Some of the players I’ve highlighted are big-time, big name players. Former Pro Bowlers or All-Pros, guys who make a major impact when they’re in the lineup.

Others are young up-and-comers, who may not be household names just yet, but are important cogs in their team’s game-plans.

If you don’t see a player from your favorite team on this list, count yourself lucky. But feel free to nominate anybody I’ve missed in the comments section below or on Twitter.

Read on for my list of 15 NFL players who need to get off the injury report and onto the field, as soon as possible.

Jon Presser is RantSports.com's New York Jets Lead Columnist

Follow him on Twitter @metsjetsnets88

Contact him at metsjetsnets88@gmail.com

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Buffalo Bills LT Cordy Glenn

glenn
Timothy T. Ludwig-US PRESSWIRE

The Buffalo Bills appear to have a gem in rookie second-round pick Cordy Glenn.

The 6'6, 345 behemoth started right away at left tackle for Buffalo, and he proved immediately that he is a force to reckoned with in pass protection, and he's a capable run blocker as well.

The 23-year-old Glenn was off to an outstanding start for the 3-3 Bills, but an ankle injury has kept him off the field in recent weeks.

The Bills are shooting for a Week 9 return for their promising rookie left tackle. For their sake, and the sake of their potential playoff hopes, they better hope he comes back without missing a beat.

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San Diego Chargers LT Jared Gaither

gaither
Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE

Jared Gaither has battled the label of "injury-prone" his entire career.

His time with the Baltimore Ravens ended after a head injury cost him the entire 2010 season.

After a brief stint with the Kansas City Chiefs, Gaither was claimed by the San Diego Chargers last November, and he signed a four-year deal with the Chargers this past March.

Back spasms caused him to miss the first three weeks of the season, and he missed their Week 6 game with a groin injury, putting his Week 7 status up in the air.

Gaither has been an excellent player when he's healthy, but he can't seem to shake the injury bug. The Chargers desperately need him back in there, protecting Philip Rivers's blindside.

Otherwise, it'll be a long season for the Bolts.

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Washington Redskins WR Pierre Garçon

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Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

The Washington Redskins have been an exciting team to watch this season thanks to rookie sensations Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris.

The Redskins are 3rd in the league in points per game (29.7) and 5th in the NFL in total yards. Mike Shanahan has to be pretty pleased with that.

It's amazing to think that this young offense could get better, but that's exactly what could happen if and when free agent prize receiver Pierre Garçon can get back on the field.

Garçon got $20 million guaranteed from the Redskins, and he was having a big game in Week 1 before injuring his foot after just 8 snaps. He tried to return in Weeks 4 and 5, but it was clear his foot is nowhere near 100%.

The 26-year-old Garçon has big-time playmaking ability. If the Redskins want to make serious noise in the crowded NFC East race, having Garçon back in the lineup would be a big boost.

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New York Jets RB/KR Joe McKnight

joe money
Ed Mulholland-US PRESSWIRE

The New York Jets running game has been a work in progress this year, to say the least.

The Jets faced some of the best run defenses in the NFL four of the first five weeks of the year, but Shonn Greene and company made mincemeat out of the Indianapolis Colts' run defense in Week 6.

However, reserve running back Bilal Powell separated his shoulder in the Jets' win, and third-stringer Joe McKnight suffered a high ankle sprain.

McKnight is also one of the best kick returners in the NFL, and the Jets have talked about giving him an increased role on offense, because he's a home run threat every time he touches the football.

Through six weeks, McKnight hasn't seen more than 10 snaps on offense in any game, but he rushed for a 61-yard burst last week in the play immediately preceding his ankle injury.

The 24-year-old McKnight has vowed to play this week even with a high ankle sprain, and with Powell out, he's an incredibly valuable player for the Jets. They need him. This week, and every week after.

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Tennessee Titans QB Jake Locker

the hurt locker
Jim Brown-US PRESSWIRE

The Tennessee Titans handed the reins to sophomore quarterback Jake Locker in 2012, but the 24-year-old suffered injuries to his left non-throwing shoulder twice this season, and he hasn't played since Week 4.

The Titans are hoping that Locker, their potential franchise quarterback, will be back in the lineup by Week 8, and it's critical for both parties that he gets valuable NFL experience this season, at the very least.

Locker needs to prove he's going to be a player worth building around, and if he can help the 2-4 Titans get back into the playoff race in the process, that'll be a bonus. This year is primarily about his development.

The AFC as a whole doesn't appear too deep, so who knows if the Titans could end up making any serious noise. If they believe Jake Locker gives them the best chance to win, he needs to be out there, proving them right.

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Dallas Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray

demarco
Tim Heitman-US PRESSWIRE

DeMarco Murray burst onto the scene for the Dallas Cowboys as a rookie last season, gaining over 1000 yards from scrimmage in only 7 starts, rushing for 5.5 yards per carry along the way.

So far this season, Murray had big games in Week 1 and Week 6, with three subpar efforts and a bye week in between. But during his 6.6 ypc effort last week, he sprained his foot, and he's been ruled out for Week 7.

Backup Felix Jones is no slouch himself, and the Cowboys will likely be able to survive Murray's absence in Week 7 against the Carolina Panthers.

But the Cowboys are going to need Murray back healthy as soon as possible if they want to call themselves contenders in the NFC East. Playmakers like him don't grow on trees.

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Philadelphia Eagles LT King Dunlap

king
Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE

Speaking of teams fighting their way to stay in the NFC East race, the Philadelphia Eagles haven't had their starting left tackle healthy since Week 1. And he himself was filling in.

King Dunlap, the appropriately named 6'9, 330 lb lineman, played well last year and won the starting left tackle job in a training camp competition after All-Pro Jason Peters was lost for the year.

The 27-year-old Dunlap was excellent in the Eagles' Week 1 victory, but he injured his hamstring during their Week 2 game and he's been out ever since.

The Eagles offense needs stability, and Dunlap's presence in the lineup would provide some. Philadelphia is on a bye on Week 7, but hopefully King Dunlap will be ready to roll in Week 8.

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Pittsburgh Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall

mendy
Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE

The Pittsburgh Steelers running game has been stagnant. They are dead last in the NFL averaging just 3.0 yards per carry as a team, and that's a big reason why they find themselves with a 2-3 record.

Rashard Mendenhall has proven in the past that he can handle the load, but he suffered a devastating ACL injury last January, putting his 2012 season in jeopardy.

Mendenhall made a speedy recovery, returning just eighth months after suffering the injury, in time for the Steelers' Week 5 game in which he carried the ball 13 times at a 5.2 ypc clip.

Unfortunately, Mendenhall left the Steelers' Week 6 loss with an Achilles injury, which may be somewhat related to overcompensating for his knee, and he is likely to miss Pittsburgh's Week 7 contest.

No other Steelers running back is averaging over 3.0 ypc, and no Steeler period has a run of more than 17 yards all season.

Ben Roethlisberger has the entire Steeler offense on his back right now. They need Mendenhall to help carry his share of the load. He needs to heal up and give the Steelers the boost they need.

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Green Bay Packers RB Cedric Benson

ced ben
Mary Langenfeld-US PRESSWIRE

Veteran running back Cedric Benson has been a nice, low-cost signing for the Green Bay Packers.

For a team that does it best work through the air, Benson's presence in the ground game made it that much easier for Aaron Rodgers and company.

Benson's helped the Packers restore some run-pass balance to their offense, or at least he had until he suffered a devastating Lisfranc foot injury in Week 5, an injury that will keep him out at least 8 weeks.

The injury can be a season-ender in most cases, but Benson and the Packers are holding out hope that he'll be able to return down the stretch and give the Packers a shot in the arm as they make their playoff push.

Young running back James Starks, a rookie sensation during the Packers' Super Bowl run two years ago, may be ready to help carry the load soon, but he's been constantly plagued with injury woes himself.

Benson's experience was a big factor in the Packers' offense. For their running game to get back to being a real threat, they may need the well-traveled veteran Benson back in the huddle.

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Indianapolis Colts RB Donald Brown

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David Butler II-US PRESSWIRE

The young upstart Indianapolis Colts have shown flashes of brilliance under the leadership of rookie quarterback Andrew Luck.

Any young quarterback's best friend is a strong running game, and in 2012, it appeared that fourth-year running back Donald Brown was on the cusp of a breakout year in his first year as the unquestioned starter.

Unfortunately, the 25-year-old Brown was sidelined in Week 6 with torn cartilage in his knee, an injury that required a minor surgical procedure and will keep him out a few more weeks.

The Colts need Donald Brown back out there to take the pressure off Luck and be the workhorse running back they drafted him to be. He's got big-time ability, but he hasn't quite put it all together yet.

Once he's back on the field, he'll get that chance to prove he can be a top running back in this league. He needs to get healthy, get out there, and show the NFL what he can do.

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St. Louis Rams WR Danny Amendola

amendola
Scott Rovak-US PRESSWIRE

Wide receiver Danny Amendola and the St. Louis Rams have been a perfect fit.

The 26-year-old was undrafted out of Texas Tech, had brief stints with the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles, but finally found a home after joining the Rams in 2009.

Amendola had a breakout year in 2010 with rookie quarterback Sam Bradford. Amendola had a team-high 85 receptions, helping Bradford win the Offensive Rookie of the Year award.

Unfortunately for the scrappy slot receiver, he has been unable to play a full season since then, as an elbow/triceps injury ended his 2011 season after just 1 game.

This year, Amendola was having another big start to the year as Bradford's favorite target, but he suffered a separated SC joint injury in his collarbone area in Week 5, which will cost him significant time.

Danny Amendola is truly one of the game's most underrated players. Bradford and the Rams will keep their fingers crossed, hoping #16 can get healthy and back on the field as soon as possible.

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Arizona Cardinals RB Beanie Wells

beanie
Brace Hemmelgarn-US PRESSWIRE

Another running back finds himself on this list, in Arizona Cardinals fourth-year man Beanie Wells.

The Cardinals used a first-round pick on the former Ohio State star back in 2009, and the ex-Buckeye finally started to show some of that promise with a 1000-yard season in 2011.

Arizona's running game has been a total mess in 2012, and the two backs they thought would carry the load have both been injury-plagued. Second-year back Ryan Williams is out for the year, and Wells is banged up too.

Wells is suffering from a severe case of turf toe, and will be out until late November at the earliest. In the meantime, their offense is bordering on unwatchable, save for the occasional big play from Larry Fitzgerald.

If the Cardinals to want to make a serious run in the NFC West, they'll need a heavy dose of Beanie Wells down the stretch. The health of the 24-year-old will be a key factor in their potential playoff chances.

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New York Giants WR Hakeem Nicks

nicks
Jim O'Connor-US PRESSWIRE

The defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants always seem to have a knack for overcoming adversity.

The dynamic duo of head coach Tom Coughlin and quarterback Eli Manning has a lot to do with that. Any time adversity hits, they adjust, and life goes on.

In 2012, fourth-year receiver Hakeem Nicks has been banged up all season long, and it's not every day a team loses a young star in the making and doesn't miss a beat.

The 24-year-old Nicks is coming off back-to-back 1000-yard seasons, and after battling foot and knee injuries most of training camp and early this season, he looks like getting closer and closer to 100%.

Nicks may be ready to roll in Week 7, and that's a dangerous thought for the rest of the league. The last thing the rest of the NFC needs is another reliable weapon back in the lineup for the Giants.

A healthy Hakeem Nicks has Pro Bowl-caliber potential in this league. Adding a guy like that to your huddle would make any team significantly better. Especially the team to beat.

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Baltimore Ravens LB Ray Lewis

ray ray
Evan Habeeb-US PRESSWIRE

The heart and soul of the Baltimore Ravens defense, future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis is in danger of missing the rest of the season after tearing the triceps muscle on his right arm last week.

Lewis was placed on the injured reserve, with the designation to possibly return, similarly to Cedric Benson and Beanie Wells. A new rule allows each team to designate one injured player to potentially return per year.

It was a rough week of injuries for the Ravens last week, as they not only lost Lewis, but also Ladarius Webb as well. Webb has emerged as one of the best young cornerbacks in football.

Webb's injury is too serious to return from, so if the Ravens' defense is going to get any relief, it will come from the imminent return of All-Pro Terrell Suggs and the hope that Ray Lewis can make a speedy recovery.

Needless to say, having Ray Lewis for the stretch run, even at less than 100%, is better than not having him at all.

The 37-year-old middle linebacker has been one of the most exciting players in the league for over a decade and a half. I, for one, hope we see him again this season.

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Pittsburgh Steelers S Troy Polamalu

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Jason Bridge-US PRESSWIRE

Arguably no injury has been more frustrating for both the player and the team than Troy Polamalu's nagging calf injury for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Polamalu is without question one of the best players in the NFL and the Steelers are simply a different team when he's on the field.

Pittsburgh has a losing record when their star safety is out of the lineup, and Polamalu does not appear close to a return after he re-aggravated his injured calf in their Week 5 win.

The 31-year-old's season could be in jeopardy as this injury continues to linger, and that is bad news for the Steelers' playoff hopes. They can't afford to have him out much longer.

The Steelers will keep their fingers crossed, hoping that Polamalu can find his way back on the field sometime relatively soon. They need him, perhaps more than any team needs any player this season.