I said after Stafon Johnson suffered his injury back in September that I thought he would never see the field again...
The injury to his throat and the reconstructive surgery that saved his life I felt would would be too much of a hill to climb in order to get back into playing shape. Cartilage heals different than bone or muscle, it is more delicate than either. The cartilage in the throat is different than the cartilage in the knee or hip...those structures are used to being loaded or stressed 10 x body weight. the throat is no such structure.
While I highly doubt that Stafon would take a hit to the throat it is possible but the bigger concern for me would be his ability to breath as his body is stressed during hard activity. Frankly, none of us have ever seen an injury like this so we really don't know what the implications are. The only throat related injury that I can remember was the hockey goalie who had his throat accidentally slashed by an errant skate that required emergency surgery to repair the damage...I remember seeing a lot of blood on the ice.
So we don't know how Johnson will respond to being back on the field.
I also said I hoped that he would make me eat my words.
It would appear that he is going to do just that!
The former USC tailback still speaks with a soft, raspy voice four months after his larynx was crushed in a weightlifting accident. He is back trying to forge an NFL career at the Senior Bowl, and prove that his game remains strong even if his voice is far from full-strength.
"I don't have any doubt he'll be able to get back," said new Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, formerly Johnson's coach at USC. "He's been out of playing for a while but he'll get back.
"This is a great opportunity. I think the Senior Bowl making the statement and giving him a chance was really a thoughtful and good idea. He's a great kid and he deserves a shot."
Johnson was sidelined after dropping 275 pounds of weights on his neck on Sept. 28 while bench pressing, an injury that required seven hours of immediate reconstructive surgery. Three more operations followed from an accident that could have been fatal, and he spent 16 days in the hospital.
He was cleared by doctors to play and happily accepted an invitation to the Senior Bowl. The game is Saturday but the week of practices gives him the chance to showcase his abilities in front of dozens of NFL scouts that he didn't get during his shortened final season at USC.
In a year that has seen this USC football team take a many hits both on and off the field Johnson's tragedy hopefully will turn out with a happy ending.
I am still skeptical, but I hope to be proven wrong, a 27-year career in the medical field can do that to a person. For all the successes I have seen I have seen just as many failures. Stafon's surgeons said that most people that get this injury end up dying...Stafon being as great a shape as he is saved his life but no matter how optimistic his surgeons are even they really don't know how he will because they have never had a patient or situation like this before.
Nothing would make me happier than to see Stafon get a shot at playing in the NFL. Having a successful career would be icing on the cake.
I hope he continues to prove me wrong...