Seattle's Jimmy Graham bucking trend in return from injury
RENTON, Wash. (AP) At some point soon, the questions will stop about Jimmy Graham's knee. What he's doing on the field won't be prefaced by what happened last November.
For now, everything Graham is doing for the Seattle Seahawks is noteworthy because of what took place on Nov. 29, 2015 - a knee injury that very few have recovered from in such spectacular fashion.
''It's a great statement about his ability to accomplish all that he did in rehab to get his mind right and his body right to do what he's doing, and just to make some really cool plays,'' Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. ''It's a big statement about him, but I think he's ready to go now.''
As the Seahawks enter their bye this week at 3-1, there are several worthwhile performances to note. From quarterback Russell Wilson's ability to play through a sprained right ankle and sprained left knee, to a defense that continues to show signs of again being a dominant unit, it's been a successful first quarter of the season for the Seahawks.
Graham's stunning recovery and play - especially the past two weeks - may be at the top of that list.
''I'm just trying to do my job. I'm just blessed to be on the field with my guys,'' Graham said. ''It's been such a long road for me, and to finally be part of what this team has going on and to be truly part of it, it feels amazing.''
In the past two weeks, the impact Graham was expected to have when he was first traded from New Orleans to Seattle has started to be realized. Graham has posted two straight 100-yard receiving games for the first time since early in the 2013 season. He had six catches for 100 yards and a touchdown - all in the first half - in a win over San Francisco, then followed up with six catches for 113 yards last week against the New York Jets.
When Seattle returns from its bye, Graham could become the first player in franchise history to have three straight 100-yard receiving games.
The connection between Wilson and Graham felt forced in the early stages of last year, but is now developing naturally within Seattle's offense.
''We are on it. We've been doing that for a while,'' Wilson said. ''I think we're ready to roll. The way we've been practicing, it's been great having him back out there. Jimmy Graham looked special.''
What Graham has accomplished the past two weeks stands out even more when context is added. Graham is doing this just 10 months after suffering a torn patellar tendon in his right knee in a victory over Pittsburgh. It's an injury that typically takes between nine and 12 months to regain a similar level of movement and strength from prior to the injury.
A number of NFL players have struggled to return from the same injury, most notably New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz, who was injured midway through the 2014 season and didn't return to an NFL game until Week 1 of this season.
A study by the American Journal of Sports Medicine released earlier this year noted a 50 percent return-to-play rate for NFL players undergoing orthoscopic repair of patellar tendon injuries, significantly lower than the return-to-play rates from other types of knee injuries.
All of which makes Graham's recovery even more impressive.
''I'm just a little different. I've worked literally every second of the day on my knee - if I'm not flying - which is kind of more of a soul thing,'' Graham said. ''But for me, I've put so much into this to try and be back here for this team Week 1 and to try and make it back to start the season. Hard work pays off and there is really no substitute for it.''
The bye falls at a good time for Seattle with the injuries to Wilson, wide receiver Tyler Lockett and others, allowing them two weeks of recovery. It also provides a break for Graham. It's been a constant grind for nearly 11 months to recover, rehabilitate and ultimately prove he was capable of getting back on the field and showing the athleticism and ability that once made him the top tight end in football.
''He just kept digging in and clawing and scratched out and got going. There was a time when we didn't know which way it would go, you never know if there's a setback in there,'' Carroll said. ''He just made it through it and had great determination and great encouragement and guts and all that, and he pulled it off. I know this is a surgery that doesn't always go like that. We're very fortunate and thrilled for him.''
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL