Bradley Chubb is teetering on membership in a disappointing club
The Denver Broncos announced this week that Bradley Chubb will undergo arthroscopic surgery to remove a bone spur from his left ankle. The news comes just four months after Chubb underwent a similar scoping procedure to remove bone spurs in his right ankle, which caused him to miss both mandatory minicamp and OTAs this past offseason.
The exact timeline for Chubb’s recovery remains in flux, but the expectation is that he will spend time on the injured reserve list and hope for a mid-to-late season return. Unfortunately for Chubb, I fear he has now joined one of the most heartbreaking lists in all of sports: The “What if?” list.
There are countless examples of high-profile, extremely talented athletes whose bright and promising careers were cut short due to persistent injuries. Think along the lines of Derrick Rose, RGIII, Yao Ming, Greg Oden, Andrew Luck and Jake Butt. Players whose trajectories were out of this world, until health problems brought them crashing back to Earth.
Since entering the league as the fifth-overall selection in the 2018 NFL Draft, Chubb has only played an entire season of football one time. It was his rookie season when he and Von Miller combined for 26.5 sacks, and Broncos Country got a glimpse of what they thought would be the league’s premier pass rush duo for the foreseeable future.
A torn ACL and an ankle injury would cause Chubb to miss 14 games over the next two years. Lingering effects from those ankle injuries appear to remain with him to this day.
In my opinion, Chubb’s injury misfortune appears to be through little-to-no fault of his own, which makes the entire situation much tougher to stomach. By all accounts, Chubb is in excellent physical shape, has attacked his rehab aggressively and done all of the right things. It just hasn’t translated to healthy play on the field.
Chubb was a consensus top-five pick in the draft for a number of reasons. He was a first-team All American who had a trophy case full of national awards and was considered to be the most-talented branch of a strong football family tree. It is exactly those reasons that keep many in Broncos Country up at night wondering what could have been if his health issues never surfaced.
The same way Bulls fans wonder what their franchise would’ve looked like had Derrick Rose not suffered a laundry list of knee, ankle and foot injuries after he took the NBA world by storm during his 2010 MVP campaign. The same way Washington fans likely felt about RGIII whose supernova-like tenure with the organization was derailed by persistent injuries.
Greg Oden was believed by many in basketball circles to be a “once-in-a-decade” player when he was selected first overall in the draft by the Portland Trailblazers. Unfortunately for all, Oden’s body was simply unable to withstand the rigors of a regular season, and his legacy as one of the most underwhelming lottery picks in league history remains to this day.
Just as Chubb’s knee and ankle issues have thus far robbed him of several productive years, Yao Ming’s foot injuries robbed him of his prime and continue to bother him to this day. Ming is a member of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, which is more than many on this unfortunate, imaginary list can say, but there’s no telling what his career could have looked like had he not dealt with those nagging injuries.
Injury issues robbed Andrew Luck of the joy of playing football and contributed to one of the most bizarre retirements in sports history during the 2019 season.
It’s often said that the NFL has a 100 percent injury rate and, by and large, that statement holds true. Unfortunately for Chubb, his injuries have been either severe enough to force extended absences or complex enough to create prolonged effects that increase the chances of re-injury down the road.
The good news is, theoretically, Chubb stilI has time to get his body right and course correct his career, which has taken a series of rough turns in recent years. However, I fear that Chubb may already be headed down the unfortunate path we’ve seen from other prominent athletes who have shared in his struggle, and his window of opportunity as a professional athlete is closing.
I’ve never hoped to be wrong about something more that last sentence, but only time will tell.