In the first quarter of last season's contest against the Seattle Seahawks, Chicago Bears wide receiver Johnny Knox caught a pass down the left seam. He then cut inside but lost control of the ball. As the pigskin tumbled on the turf, Knox dove for it and was bent backward in a brutal collision. Knox was hit so hard the back of his head nearly touched his waist.
He had spinal fusion surgery shortly thereafter. It was a one-level vertebral fusion, which initially called for three to four months before Knox could even walk correctly.
Since then, doctors have also found structural damage, which will send him to the physically unable to perform list (PUP) and could cost him the 2012 season. The Chicago Tribune first reported the news.
WR Johnny Knox
Mike Dinovo/US Presswire
On the PUP list, Knox will be out for the first six weeks of the year. At that point, the club has a three-week window in which to activate him to the 53-man roster. If he's not healthy enough for activation by Week 9, the club must place him on the injured reserve list, ending his season.
Knox was Chicago's leading wide receiver last year in both catches (37) and receiving yards (727). His vertical speed has always been used to stretch opposing defenses, forcing them to respect the deep pass. It's a crucial role, especially given the attention secondaries must now pay Brandon Marshall. A burner on the other side of the field is going to have a lot of big-play opportunities.
Knowing now that Knox will miss at least six games this year is a plus for the Bears. There's no gray area here. The front office and coaches must prepare for the very real possibility he may not see action in 2012.
Time to move on without him. If he comes back in Week 7, it's gravy. But to expect much of anything from him at this point seems like a stretch.
Plan B must take effect immediately, whether that be inserting Devin Hester or newcomer Eric Weems into Knox's role, signing another free agent or drafting a speedy receiver. The team has plenty of time to find an alternate solution and have that plan in place come training camp.
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of Bear Report magazine and BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.