Should Chargers Be Worried About Gordon’s Knee?
By Matt Pagels
Some big news broke late last night involving San Diego Chargers running back Melvin Gordon.
According to Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune, Gordon reportedly underwent microfracture surgery in January. The recovery time is typically four-to-six months, so it’s not the greatest of news for a team that desperately needs to jumpstart its running game.
Gordon tore his knee against the Miami Dolphins in December 2015, which led to him being placed on season-ending injured reserve. It’s old news now, but the real question is, should the Chargers be worried about Gordon’s future?
For those who don’t know, microfracture surgery involves poking tiny holes in the bone near torn cartilage in order to allow the blood help repair the tear. It results in a weaker cartilage.
In his feature, Gehlkin talks to Kerlan-Jobo orthopedic surgeon Dr. Brian Schulz about the surgery. This is what he had to say:
“Typically, I know especially in the NBA and the NFL, when people hear ‘microfracture surgery,’ they are going to think it could be a potentially career-ending injury,” Dr. Schulz said. “Normally, it’s more directly related to the size of the defect, what’s going on in the rest of the knee. If it’s a relatively small lesion that’s localized to a specific point, the microfracture has worked pretty well, even in professional athletes. … I don’t think microfracture is quite the kiss of death that everyone makes it out to be.”
Former Chargers doctor David Chao concurs.
Not all microfracture surgery is career ending/threatening. Depends on size/extent/location of cartilage loss. https://t.co/jQh9Mtpwmc
— David J. Chao, MD (@ProFootballDoc) May 10, 2016
But there’s not always a happy ending. In 2007, Football Ousiders’ Kelvin Pelton did a case study on players who underwent microfacture surgery. Of the 56 NFL players he took a look at, only nine of them have remained in the NFL for at least five seasons after undergoing the surgery. However, he did state that Dan Marino and Rod Woodson, both of whom underwent the procedure at a young age, went on to have luxurious careers.
Hopefully it won’t be a huge setback for Gordon, especially after how he performed last season.
Melvin Gordon was PFF's No. 62 RB of 68 qualifiers in '15. Zero TDs on 217 touches. Fumbled six times. 3.48 YPC. Now microfracture surgery.
— Adam Levitan (@adamlevitan) May 10, 2016
Even Gordon admitted he was terrible. But he is optimistic about his recovery, telling Gehlken that there’s “no question” regarding his readiness for training camp. There hasn’t been any contact, but it’s a good sign that he’s already been taking handoffs in offseason programs.
San Diego invested a lot in Gordon. They traded up to get him in the 2015 NFL Draft. It didn’t work out as planned, though, considering the team finished with a league-low 3.5 yards per carry last season.
So back to the question: should the Chargers worry? There will always be a concern, but the team shouldn’t panic. There were–and still are–high hopes for Gordon. The offensive line is much improved with the additions of former Bears guard/center Matt Slauson, 2016 third-round pick Max Tuerk and even 2016 second-rounder Hunter Henry, a tight end who can block and catch. They drafted fullback and former Wisconsin pal Derek Watt to lead the way for Gordon, too. If tackle King Dunlap, guards Orlando Franklin and D.J. Fluker and the rest of the Woolly mammoths can stay healthy, expect a completely different outcome than last year.
Overall, Gordon is still young at 23 years old. The talent is there, and now the guy has a chip on his shoulder. Even though his future is uncertain, I see him being a longtime player for the Chargers.
Now, if Gordon has another down year in 2016, I can see the Chargers moving on sooner rather than later (and that’s factoring in the microfracture surgery). Don’t forget, the Chargers have Branden Oliver. In 2014, Oliver led the Chargers with 582 rushing yards and three touchdowns as a rookie, which was also another injury-riddled year for the Chargers’ offensive line. After carrying the ball 160 times in 14 games in the aforementioned season, he only finished with 31 attempts in eight games last year.
Maybe this string of bad luck with injuries will come to an end, and Gordon will become the player the Chargers thought he was when they drafted him.
But there’s always a big ‘maybe’ with the Chargers.