The Super Bowl just wouldn’t be the same if we didn’t have at least one major injury to poke, prod, and use large Latin words to describe. It makes us sound smarter, and gives us something to do on Media Day aside from putting on a wedding dress and handing out rapid fire marriage proposals like free packets of Tic Tacs.
We need something to examine. But more importantly, we need something to talk about.
So our hat tips to you, Maurkice Pouncey. Perhaps as part of his season-long rookie initiation the Steelers centre took the fall this year, giving us the gift of a major injury to discuss. Pouncey suffered a high ankle sprain during the Steelers AFC Championship game win over Jets on Sunday.
After first saying he’s “most definitely” playing in the title game, Pouncey was seen today walking on crutches with his leg in a hard cast rather than a soft cast or walking boot. This was the opening salvo across the bow of optimism, and Pittsburgh could potentially be left with backup Doug Legursky taking on the beastly B.J Raji, Green Bay’s nose tackle. Pouncey’s already been issued the injury gag order, meaning you’re now free to seek the medical opinion of everyone from your local doctor, to the high school trainer that once taped your ankle.
Soon Pouncey will hobble to his podium on Media Day, and stare into the glare that many others have faced before him.
The list: Major Super Bowl injuries
Dwight Freeney (2010)
Dwight Freeney tore a ligament in his right ankle during the Colts’ AFC title game against the Jets last year. He didn’t practice for two weeks, giving bookies a headache and causing the gambling line for Indy’s showdown with New Orleans to endure a constant roller coaster.
He was announced as a starter on Super Bowl Sunday, and was highly effective early before being limited in the second half while struggling with the injury. His first quarter sacked stalled a Saints drive and forced a 46-yard field goal.
Tom Brady (2002 and 2008)
Tom Brady lands on this list twice, with the first injury nearly altering the course of football history (possibly an exaggeration), while the second one was more minor, but still inspired a paparazzi chase.
Back when everything Brady was cool, fresh, and new in 2002, the Patriots’ quarterback went down with a leg injury during their triumph over Pittsburgh to punch a Super Bowl ticket. It was just a year after the unknown Brady had emerged from the shadow of injured veteran and legend Drew Bledsoe, and the possibility of Bledsoe starting was real briefly. Brady healed in time and ignited the Patriots’ dynasty, leading a game-winning drive over the Rams.
Brady’s date with the doctor was far less serious during New England’s search for the perfect season in 2008, a mission eventually ended by the Giants and David Tyree’s helmet-head catch. But at least his wonky ankle produced some photography fun. Brady’s determination on the gridiron is matched only by his bravery while bringing flowers to supermodels on a swollen limb…
Terrell Owens (2005)
Long before he was teaming up with Chad Johnson Ochocinco to set television sports talk back 10 years, Terrell Owens was the king of Philadelphia. The Eagles were the class of the NFC during Owens’ first season in the City of Brotherly Love, but were dealt a potentially crushing blow when their star wideout sprained his angle with two games left on the schedule.
His Super Bowl status lingered, but it was eventually determined that if the Eagles played for the Lombardi Trophy the charismatic receiver would suit up. They did, and he did, finishing with an incredible nine receptions for 122 yards.
Leave it to the man who made Sharpie celebrations and driveway push-ups famous to heal with the help of Tahitian Noni Juice…
Jack Youngblood (1975)
This story doesn’t take place during the Super Bowl, but I think we can make an exception for a player whose leg shattered in the first half of a game, and he then berated trainers into getting him back onto the field.
A Rams defensive end, Jack Youngblood busted his left leg in the second quarter of a divisional round game against the Cowboys during the 1975 playoffs. Youngblood was in excruciating pain, but he didn’t care, not even when a trainer showed him the X-ray and said his leg had “snapped like a pencil.”
I’ll leave the rest of the story for the man himself, who spoke to Peter King during the public examination of Owens’ leg in 2005.
“I start yelling, ‘Somebody come in here and tape this damn thing up and bring me some aspirin!’ Clarence [the team trainer] comes in and says, ‘I can’t do that! You’re fibula’s snapped like a pencil.’
“I said I didn’t care, and he sticks the X-ray in that light board they had and says, ‘Look! You got a broken bone!’
I told the trainers, ‘Tape me up!’ And so they came in, strapped my leg as tight as they could. The pain was excruciating. I can’t even describe it. But they couldn’t shoot the bone with a painkiller; that stuff doesn’t work on bones.
Suddenly, Owens having over six weeks to recover doesn’t seem so bad.
Lynn Swann (1976)
With our modern technology and medical knowledge players now have to pass a litany of tests before returning to a football field after a concussion.
But there was a much simpler and more dangerous time when future Hall of Fame wide receivers trotted out and played in the Super Bowl two weeks after sustaining a serious head injury. Just ask Lynn Swann, who was listed as doubtful and had a rough week of practice before making one of the greatest catches in Super Bowl history.