Four years ago today, Teddy Bridgewater suffered a non-contact knee injury that, at the time, was believed to not only be career-threatening, but potentially loss-of-limb threatening. He tore his left ACL and dislocated the same knee at practice, an injury that was described as "horribly grotesque" by his surgeon and required two surgeries to mend. There was fear his left leg would have to be amputated.
Four years later, Bridgewater is the Carolina Panthers starting quarterback after signing a three-year, $63 million contract with them this offseason. It's taken countless hours of rehab and then countless hours of practice to get himself back in a position to play football again and then it took a Drew Brees injury (rare) for Bridgewater to get a chance to prove he can still be a starting-caliber quarterback in the league, which he did in 2019.
But despite all the progress he's made, and this is not to take anything away from the amazing recovery and performance he's had so far, but he does not have the best comeback story from injury in sports. That title belongs to Shaun Livingston...for now.
Like Bridgewater, Livingston was a young, up-and-coming talent before a devastating knee injury nearly derailed his career. Also like Bridgewater, he suffered a dislocated knee and tore his ACL. Unlike Bridgewater, Livingston also tore his PCL and lateral meniscus and sprained his MCL. He was likewise told his leg might have to be amputated.
But this isn't about comparing injuries. It's about comparing comebacks. And right now, Livingston is ahead.
After returning from his injury in 2008, Livingston played 11 more seasons in the NBA. His most memorable run came with the Golden State Warriors when he came off the bench and played a big role in them winning three championships. He didn't become the star many imagined when the Clippers drafted him with the No. 4 pick in 2004, but he did prove capable of winning at the highest level, coming up clutch in several playoff games/moments to help the Warriors establish their dynasty.
Bridgewater hasn't had as much time to prove himself yet. He's only played two years following two years of rehab from his injury and has only had the chance to start six games. His results have been strong: 5-1 record as a starter with 10 TDs against 3 INTs. But this is the first year since the injury where he comes into training camp as the starter and, on a team that isn't expected to compete in the stacked NFC South, he has a yeoman's task before him.
If Bridgewater could somehow turn the Panthers back into a playoff team and sustain a high level of play for multiple years, an argument can be made that his comeback is as impressive as Livingston's. It won't be easy and it won't happen this year alone (unless the Panthers inexplicably win the Super Bowl), but Bridgewater has already overcome the odds to get back on the field so I'm not betting against him as he begins the second part of his career post-surgery.