Green Bay Packers linebacker Frank Zombo was activated from the Physically Unable to Perform list this weekend. Zombo suffered a hamstring injury in OTAs in the offseason and was placed on the PUP list, but has the opportunity to play for the first time this season. For reasons not quite clear to me, this makes me really, really excited.
I’ve always been a big fan of Zombo. I don’t know if it’s the cool name, his crazy toughness, the best sack celebration – slashing a Zorro-style “Z” with an imaginary sword – or just this guy’s hard-luck journey over the past couple of seasons, but I always find myself pulling for him.
No matter what he does, Zombo can’t seem to stave off injuries long enough to see serious playing time. Last year, he was only able to play five regular season games because of various injuries. Normally, in cases like this, I’d be inclined to be dismissive towards a player like this, calling him injury prone, but you have to hear all his bad luck from last season before you write him off.
In the Packers’ 2011 preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals, Zombo broke his shoulder blade during pre-game warmups. And then he played the game. It was not until after the game that he went to trainers, who discovered the scapula was broken. Zombo was fitted with a sling and expected to miss 8-12 weeks. The linebacker wore the sling … for one day. He didn’t want to “baby” the shoulder, he said, and continued to use his arm the best he could, doing most everyday activities like opening doors with his injured shoulder. And six weeks later – sooner than anyone expected him to recover – Zombo was ready to play.
In his second game back, however, he hurt his knee early in the second quarter – but didn’t tell anyone. “I didn’t know what was going to happen with my knee … didn’t know if I tore something or whatever. I thought it could be my last game, so I wasn’t going to pull myself out. I thought I could be done for the season. So I said, ‘Whatever, I’m going to play.’ ” Zombo admitted that he was in intense pain by the time he got his knee checked out after the game, but was relieved to hear that he only had hyper-extended his knee and there was no structural damage. Again, Zombo didn’t let initial prognoses define how long he would be out – he returned to the field two weeks later.
Then, in his first game back, poor Zombo suffered a hamstring injury. He missed the next few weeks before playing in a limited role the final few weeks of the season to end a disappointing personal campaign. One would think the offseason would allow a guy to get healthy, but Zombo suffered a severe hamstring injury in offseason training that sent him to the PUP list to start this season.
When Zombo has managed to stay on the field, he’s been pretty solid. His stats don’t jump off the page, but he’s been dependable, yet it’s hard to get a feel for a player you see so infrequently. After last year’s nightmare season, I hope Zombo has a breakout season. The Packers will be cautious with bringing a player back from injury from a playing time perspective, but they certainly will need the help with Clay Matthews and Nick Perry out. Zombo has to make the most of his opportunity to be the “next man up” in this depleted defense and I think he has the talent, toughness, and tenacity to do so.
But it wouldn’t hurt for him to knock on wood.