In today’s NFL, where offenses are predominantly centered around the passing game, losing a starting quarterback is one of those devastating blows that teams are rarely able to overcome. Of course, while it’s not necessarily on the same level, losing a star wide receiver is right up there. Unfortunately for the Green Bay Packers, this is the predicament they now find themselves in heading into the 2015 season.
In 2014, Nelson racked up 98 receptions, 1,519 receiving yards and 13 touchdown receptions. Although Green Bay has depth at the receiver position — with Randall Cobb and Davante Adams ready to go — there are just some players you cannot replace.
Just remember what happened to the New England Patriots when Rob Gronkowski went down. This juggernaut was not remotely the same team without the Gronk running over any defender that got in his path. Granted he may be a tight end, but the fact still remains, some players are simply game-changers. Jordy Nelson is a game-changer.
Unfortunately, while this injury is terrible, it’s not the first time an NFL team has suffered the devastating loss of a stud wide receiver. With that in mind, here’s a look at the five most disheartening wide receiver injuries ever.
1. Steve Smith
During the fourth quarter of the the opening game of the 2004 season, wide receiver Steve Smith broke his leg against the Green Bay Packers. Considering the 5-foot-9 wideout was coming off a 2003 season that saw him finish with 88 receptions, 1,110 receiving yards, and seven touchdowns, while also leading the the Panthers to their first-ever Super Bowl appearance, this was a crushing injury to a team with high hopes for the year. Unfortunately, the injury would keep the superstar receiver out for the remainder of the season. On the flip side, Smith would return in 2005 to have the best statistical season of his career.
2. Victor Cruz
When he is at full strength, New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz is one of the more exciting players in the NFL. Not only does he make stunning plays on the football field, but he caps off his touchdowns with a smooth salsa — the sign of a true showman. And while we’re normally used to No. 80 tormenting opposing secondaries all over the field, this upcoming 2015, we’re simply looking for the former Pro Bowl wideout to show he can still hang with the best of them — that’s how disturbing the knee injury he suffered against the Philadelphia Eagles in the sixth game of the 2014 season was. Hopefully he’s able to make complete recovery in 2015. It’d be a shame if he wasn’t about to return to the player he once was.
3. Julio Jones
When it comes to the wide receiver position, there are very few NFL players on the same level as Atlanta’s Julio Jones. This dude is an absolute beast, with great odds to top the league in receiving yards this year. Of course, it wasn’t too long ago — the 2013 season to be exact — that the Falcons were announcing their star wideout would miss the remainder of the year with a fractured foot. Although things weren’t looking good for an Atlanta team that was 1-4 at the time, Jones happened to be one of the few bright spots prior to his injury. The Pro Bowler was leading the league in receptions (41) and was second overall in receiving yards (580). Fortunately for the organization, Jones would return in 2014 to light up the opposition with 104 catches and 1,593 receiving yards.
4. Sterling Sharpe
In seven NFL seasons for the Green Bay Packers, wide receiver Sterling Sharpe made the Pr0 Bowl five times and was a three-time First-Team All-Pro. He led the league in receptions on three separate occasions and had a receiving “Triple Crown” in 1992. He was on pace to be one of the greatest receivers to ever play the game. Unfortunately, Sharpe suffered a career-ending neck injury caused in the final two games of the 2004 season. While Green Bay’s No. 84 clearly endured much more than anyone else, this injury was tough on anyone who fancies themselves a fan of the game.
5. Terrell Owens
As controversial a figure as he was, Terrell Owens was still an undeniably talented wide receiver. In 15 seasons in the NFL, T.O. made six Pro Bowls and was a First-Team All-Pro five times. Despite being a physical freak only rivaled by the likes of Calvin Johnson, Owens wasn’t exactly unbreakable.
In 2004, as a member of the NFC superpower Philadelphia Eagles, he suffered an ankle injury that caused him to miss not only the final two games of the year, but the majority of the postseason as well. While Owens was able to return for Super Bowl XXXIX — where he had nine catches and 122 receiving yards in a gutsy performance — the Eagles still wound up losing to the New England Patriots 24-21. We wonder what would’ve happened had T.O. been 100%.