Awarded annually the NFL comeback player of the year award is given to the player who has been able to return from either Injury or a down season with a performance worthy of recognition. Previous players to take home the hardware includes Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Michael Vick. Most recently Eric Berry and Rob Gronkowski have each taken home the hardware in the previous two years. With Berry having another strong season and Gronkowski suffering injury once again the award will be looking for a new home. With many strong and deserving candidates this season the race is not as clear-cut as in past seasons.
“Hopefully, not to me; hopefully it’s for somebody else,” Demarco Murray said. “I don’t know, I don’t know. We’ll see, I guess.” For a player in Murray’s position who did not return from injury yet bounced back from a down year ago this award is not viewed with the same appreciation for its purpose as perhaps other awards. Following a season in Philadelphia that saw him end up 27th in the league in rushing and lose his starting spot mid way through the season Murray found a new home in Tennessee. Bouncing back to the form that saw him lead the league in rushing in 14’ Murray ended the 16’ season third in rushing and the heart of the Titans offensive attack.
Le’Veon Bell showed truly just how important he was to the Steelers offense this season, as he was their offense. Accounting for over 1,800 yards in just 12-games should not only give him consideration for the comeback player of the year award but in the MVP discussion. Bell missed more than half of the 2015 season with torn ligaments in his knees and four games this season due to suspension yet showed no signs of slowing down. A 236-yard performance against the Bills in Buffalo only helped Bells cause as he is one of the favorites for the award.
Being 34 years old and coming off an Achilles injury is not a recipe for success in life yet alone the NFL. Don’t tell Cameron Wake that as not only did he return from injury but also he thrived and led the Dolphins to the playoffs off of a 10-win season. If that was not enough he led the team with 11.5 sacks on the season and a spot in the pro-bowl.
Perhaps there is no greater story in the race for comeback player of the year then Dennis Pitta the Baltimore Ravens tight end. Playing in his first full season since 2012, Pitta is coming off of a fractured hip that had kept him sidelined. Rewarding the Ravens for their trust in him Pitta put up well beyond average numbers this past season. Pitta led all tight ends in receptions this season with 86 to go along with over 700-yards receiving. Not the biggest statistical leader of all of the candidates but by far having the largest journey back to be considered for this award.
A year ago Jordy Nelson was a substitute teacher rehabbing from injury, fast forward a year and Nelson led the league in touchdowns with 14 hauled in on the season. Missing all of 2015 with a torn ACL Nelson reminded the whole league that he is a force to be reckoned with when healthy as he quickly returned to being Aaron Rodgers favorite target. With 97 catches for just under 1,300 yards receiving Nelson is a legitimate candidate for the award.
Winner: Jordy Nelson
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