Johnny Knox was never supposed to amount to much of anything for the Chicago Bears. He was a fifth round selection with good speed and decent hands, but at six foot even and a slight 180, the expectations started out pretty low.
Thing was, Knox had expectations of his own, and he was quick to show the NFL he was capable of becoming a number one receiver in a league where the prototypical first options stood 6’3 or better. Knox proved himself to be a scraper that was not afraid to take some contact in order to make the play.
He was a byproduct of the trade that brought Jay Cutler to Chicago, and during the three seasons the two shared the field, Knox became his most reliable target. Despite starting in just 27 games, Knox was able to rack up over 2200 yards and caught 12 touchdown passes. His speed made him a constant threat and his big play capabilities were unrivaled despite sharing the field with Devin Hester, a guy whose name is synonymous with big plays.
The problem with Knox was his his absolute fearless approach to the game and his size. Six foot and 180 may see like solid numbers for a man in this day and age, but on the football field, doing the things Knox was known for doing, his stature was a definite liability.
Some players can go through an entire career facing the same challenges and never have a problem, most of those players did not play with the abandon that was a staple of Knox’ mentality. Some players make it through unscathed. Johnny Knox was not so lucky.
In Week 15 of the 2011 season, Knox was bent backwards by the Seattle Seahawks Anthony Hargrove, suffering an injury to his spinal cord that required immediate surgery. The rehab since that time has been intense, with Knox saying he basically had to relearn how to walk and get along on his own two feet.
The Bears kept him on the physically unable to perform list throughout the season, giving him a chance to rehab, but they finally gave up on him being able to return and cut him earlier this week. Immediately reports came out saying that Knox planned to play somewhere in 2013, but now multiple sources close to Knox have told the Chicago Tribune that is unlikely he will ever play football again.
It is a shame that Knox may not take the field again, but reality is, he made it to the NFL, had success at a very demanding position on a team that has a very demanding fan base. Hopefully he made enough money to be comfortable and hopefully he enjoys a full recovery.
It is unfortunate that Knox and the Bears had to part ways, and it is sad to hear that he may never play again, but he is alive, and is living a life that can have great meaning. This makes it a success story, and it should be remembered as such in the rich team history of the Chicago Bears.