He Made the Difference
2004, 2005, 2006, 2007
Kirwan: On the comeback trail
On the comeback trail
By Pat Kirwan
NFL.com Senior Analyst
(Nov. 2, 2005) -- This week marks the halfway mark of the NFL season and there are a couple of strong candidates working on comeback seasons. Time will tell which player finishes the strongest, but here are a few of the players that have changed the fortunes of their careers. Some have overcome injury; some have just gotten better and deserve to be recognized at the halfway mark.
1. Tedy Bruschi, LB, Patriots: Not much has to be said about the inspirational return of the emotional leader of the New England Patriots. Bruschi defied all odds to return to the playing field after a stroke at the end of last season. He stepped onto the field last week and helped his team defeat the Buffalo Bills and take over first place in the AFC East.
2. Kyle Vanden Bosch, DE, Titans: Vanden Bosch came to the Titans after four frustrating seasons with the Cardinals. His injuries prevented him from even recording a sack in the past two years. In fact, for his four years prior to this season, he only got to the quarterback four times. Heading into Week 9 this season, he is tied for the league lead in sacks with eight. He signed a one-year deal with the Titans in hopes of making a comeback and that he has done.
After missing all of last season, Mike Anderson is back making his mark.
3. Mike Anderson, RB, Broncos: The Broncos running back has been an afterthought around the league and for good reason. He did not play in 2004 and only carried the ball 70 times in 2003. Things have turned around now that he is healthy and is ranked 10th in the league with 604 yards rushing and four touchdowns. He shares time with RB Tatum Bell, so there's no telling what his yardage would be if he was getting all the carries like some backs in the NFL. He is still on pace for a 1,200-yard rushing season and another 200 yards in receiving.
4. Mark Brunell, QB, Redskins: Brunell lost his starting quarterback job to Byron Leftwich after three games for the Jaguars in 2003. The Redskins took a chance on him in 2004 and he lost his job to Patrick Ramsey after nine games. The word around NFL circles last offseason was that he was washed up. His legs were gone and he had no arm strength. He started this season as a high-priced backup, but got the call to save the Redskins season early on. He is the fourth-ranked QB in the NFC and has thrown 12 touchdown passes to just three interceptions. In the previous two seasons, he hit paydirt a total of nine times. Brunell is on pace for well over 20 touchdown passes and his team is still in the playoff hunt.
5. Terry Glenn, WR, Cowboys: Glenn has had a reputation for not being able to stay healthy. In his 10-year career, he has only completed a 16-game season twice. Last year, he was on the shelf after just six games and 24 receptions. This season, he is ranked fifth in the NFL in receiving yards and his 36 catches for 682 yards and three scores has him on pace for 72 receptions, 1,300 yards and six touchdowns. The best season he ever had was 1,142 yards and six touchdowns.
6. Ty Law, CB, Jets: The former Patriot missed the last nine games of the 2004 season with an injured foot. A number of teams thought he couldn't play in 2005, but the Jets took a chance on him and now Law has four interceptions. He only had one in 2004 so he is on the comeback trail.
7. Jay Feely, K, Giants: The Giants kicker wasn't injured last year, but he is having a comeback season as a kicker. Last season, he kicked indoors for the Atlanta Falcons, but after finishing 25th in the league and making just 18 of his 23 field-goal attempts, they decided to go in a different direction. This year, he is ranked third in the league and his biggest improvement is in field goals of 50 yards or more. Feely had not made a 50-plus field goal since 2002 and was only 3 of 10 lifetime. This year in a Giant uniform, he is 3 for 4 on the long ones.
8. Steve Smith, WR, Panthers: In 2004, Smith played in one game before getting injured. The Panthers decided not to re-sign All Pro wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad this year and bet on the return of Smith. He hasn't disappointed the franchise with 50 receptions for 797 yards and eight touchdowns. He also has 16 returns for another 136 yards. Smith could be in the running for the league MVP this season.
There is still plenty of time for other players to step up and there is still time for these guys to fade. But if I were handing out mid-term grades, all seven would have an A+.