The only good news regarding the torn ACL Melvin Ingram suffered in the second day of OTAs is that it happened early enough in the offseason for him to be fully ready for the 2014 season.
The San Diego Chargers, however, aren’t ruling out Ingram’s 2013 season just yet. Ingram already had surgery to repair his torn ACL and while his return in 2013 is still unlikely, it isn’t completely out of the question.
Terrell Suggs injured his Achilles tendon around the same time last year but was able to return by mid-October and help the Baltimore Ravens win the Super Bowl. Adrian Peterson recovered and played less than nine months after tearing his ACL and MCL only to go on and win league MVP. Suggs had a different injury and Peterson had more time to recover, but early comebacks aren’t out of the question for players who have the work ethic and determination to prove doubters wrong.
As for Ingram, talk of a possible early return emphasizes the team’s confidence in Ingram and his determination to get back on the field. But it’s still unrealistic to expect him to recover like Peterson.
The minimum time to return from an ACL tear is six months, putting Ingram’s return in late November as the best-case scenario. Whether Ingram would be game-ready is another question, but either way, the Chargers shouldn’t rush Ingram back too quickly.
Ingram’s long-term health is much more important. From Ryan Mathews to Shawne Merriman, Buster Davis to Larry English, each of these players were first round picks for the Chargers and each had injury issues throughout their entire career. Merriman tried to rush back from a knee injury and was never the same player, dealing with knee, foot, calf and Achilles injuries before finally retiring in March. We certainly don’t want Ingram to be the next Charger who couldn’t figure out how to stay healthy.
If the Chargers are still in contention by late November, it will be tempting to have Ingram return to the field to help push the team over the top and finally return to the playoffs after a three-year absence. But if the Chargers are still in contention by then, likely the pass rush is at least adequate with Ingram’s replacement, Dwight Freeney, leading the way. And if San Diego isn’t in contention, then it definitely wouldn’t be worth risking Ingram’s health in meaningless games.
Though we’d love for Ingram to recover like Peterson and return to the field, we certainly don’t want to see him return early and suffer like Merriman. It’s not worth jeopardizing his bright future.