SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 17: A sticker for injured teammate Stafon Johnson #13 of the USC Trojans reading "STA FIGHT ON 13" is seen on a helmet during the game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Notre Dame Stadium on October 17, 2009 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
You may remember Titans running back Stafon Johnson from last year, when he was the victim of a horrible weight room accident. Johnson dropped a 275-pound barbell on his throat while bench pressing. His larynx was crushed, and the doctors who put his neck back together marveled that Johnson was able to live through such catastrophic damage.
Now Johnson is a rookie running back for the Titans and finds himself trying to make yet another astonishing comeback from a terrible injury. After dislocating and breaking his ankle Saturday night, Johnson may still find his way onto an NFL field this season. Our partner Mike Florio reports Johnson could be recovered in as few as eight weeks.
Titans coach Jeff Fisher said after Johnson had successful surgery that if things go well the recovery time could be eight to twelve weeks…
"I just think everyone is pulling for him,'' Fisher said. "How can you not pull for him considering what he's gone through? Then to have that happen, in the first preseason game, is difficult."
…But the good news is that it's possible he could play in 2010, and Fisher said he does see Johnson making it in the NFL.
"He'll get his opportunity again," Fisher said. "He showed he can play in this league."
Johnson was never a lock to make Tennessee’s roster, and while Fisher says very kind things about Johnson (who wouldn’t?), his comments don’t make it clear that Johnson’s next opportunity will be with the Titans. Johnson could be cut soon, and possibly find himself rehabbing his injury on his own, without an NFL team’s support or resources.
I hope that doesn’t happen, given what Johnson has gone through, and the remarkably positive attitude he’s shown in the face of all these grim injuries. But the NFL is a harsh place, and every preseason is a reminder that there are people out there like Johnson who are trying to make the squad because they need work, just as you and I do.
They know they aren’t superstars who will make millions. They’re just roster guys who are trying to earn a decent paycheck. Seeing one of them go down with such a rotten injury mere months after suffering an even worse one feels heartbreakingly unfair.
So let’s hope that Johnson’s best-case eight-week plan is what comes to pass. Because the alternative is something no one wants to have to think about.