By Brandon Raper @Brandon__Raper on July 26, 2014
As any NFL fan knows, injuries are simply a fact of life. Even though training camps signal the start of a new year with every team hoping to hoist the Lombardi Trophy in February, many big-name players are starting the 2014 campaign slowed by the toll this game can take on a body.
These ten players are going to be a big factor in their teams' success this year, but first they have to find their way off the PUP list and back into the action.
Following a season in which Tom Brady had his lowest completion percentage in a decade, and with TE Rob Gronkowski still on the way back from injury, the last thing the Patriots need is to lose any targets. Dobson averaged 14 yards per catch in 2013, starting nine of his 12 games played, and he'll be working for time as the third receiver alongside Danny Amendola and Kenbrell Thompkins.
The Dallas Cowboys need all the help they can get on their defensive line in 2014. Although Spencer's appearance on the PUP list wasn't unexpected after missing most of the 2013 campaign and undergoing microfracture surgery in October, he's got plenty of pressure on him to perform after a career year in 2012 led to the team putting the franchise tag on him a second straight time.
The "Honey Badger" was seen running as training camp began for the Arizona Cardinals, but even he allowed that he's still several weeks away from being ready to play again. After a year away from the game, the safety had a solid rookie season going before tearing his ACL and LCL in December. His progress back to the game will be a major story in camp.
Gresham has only played in all 16 games for the Cincinnati Bengals once in his four-year career, but he's always been productive, even as he shared time with rookie Tyler Eifert in 2013. This lingering back issue shouldn't be a major problem, but if it drags on through the preseason, he could lose even more work to Eifert as the year goes on.
Hatcher was a coup for Washington in free agency, as they snagged a defensive end who racked up 11 sacks in 15 games for the division-rival Cowboys last year. He had arthroscopic knee surgery in June, and was expected to be ready early in camp. We should know what his outlook is next week when team doctors could allow him back into full practice.
The Texans' star linebacker has had each of his last two seasons cut short by injuries. He was a dominant force when he's been on the field, so it's no surprise that the team will be treating him with care, as they need him a lot more in October and November than they do in August. He should still be available in Week 1 against Washington, but only time will tell how his recovery goes.
Harris has worked his way into a full-time starting role in the Broncos' secondary, but after tearing his ACL in the divisional playoffs against the San Diego Chargers, he was forced to miss the Super Bowl. He's the only Denver player to start on the PUP list, but that could change as soon as he has a follow-up with Dr. James Andrews early next week. Harris insists he's going to be good to go this season, and could anchor the defensive backfield.
Golden Tate topped off the best year of his career with a Super Bowl championship with the Seattle Seahawks. Now, he's cashed in on a five-year, million deal with Detroit, where he'll be paired up with Calvin Johnson in what should be a prolific passing attack. A shoulder injury has kept him out of action, and he'll need to get better soon to develop rapport with QB Matthew Stafford.
Atkins has become a focal point of the Bengals' defense and is looking to have a bounce-back year in 2014. He has grown to be one of the best defensive linemen in the NFL, and after a Pro Bowl, 12.5-sack year in 2012, was well on his way to more before tearing his ACL in October. Even if he's good to play in Week 1, it could be a slow start to the season, as knee injuries are tough to deal with in the trenches.
NaVorro Bowman's knee injury against Seattle in the playoffs was painful just to watch, and the PUP list is probably being generous. Bowman coming back to play before the middle of the year would be an amazing recovery. Still, he's been a stud for years, and the Niners should have a solid enough defense to afford some time without him, with a playoff run not out of the picture.
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