The return of Jon Beason means everything to the Panthers, but it's important he's eased back into his vital role. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
In the wake of news that Ravens' LB Terrell Suggs tore his Achilles it's hard today not to think about the injury Jon Beason sustained just under a year ago. If you were paying attention to Beason's condition throughout training camp and preseason last year, it wasn't really a surprise. He'd been struggling with Achilles strains throughout camp, and when it finally tore he was at a position where he was going to need require surgery either way; like a true leader he played to the last.
The eternal optimist in all of us wants to believe Beast will return in 2012 full strength, but talk to anyone who has sustained an Achilles injury, and tried to recover from one, and you'll hear about what a struggle it is to return to form, and how getting back to 100% can take far longer than typical eleven month recovery time. I have no doubt Beason will be back to full form in time, but it's naïve to believe he'll be in pre-injury condition immediately. NFL reporter Adam Caplan gave us some insight today over twitter on what an Achilles injury can mean.
"I talked to former NFL DE Greg Ellis at the Pro Bowl a while back. He said it took him 2 years for his Achilles to get back to normal. First year he wasn't comfortable at all. Struggled with it all season. Getting explosion off that surgically repaired Achilles is the biggest key in coming back. Very difficult in the first season."
Yes, he released a very promising video of him training in Miami, but it's not about how something looks on film, but rather how it feels. Recently Beason told Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer he felt he was at ‘80%', later acknowledging on WFNZ that this statement was as much mental as physical. Having confidence in one's body is the key to performance on Sundays, and if there's even just a small amount of doubt that can effect a player's ability.
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Obviously no two players are the same, and just because a defensive end had one road to recovery doesn't mean Beason's will mirror it. That being said, in light of this prognosis it's understandable why we could potentially see rookie Luke Kuechly at middle linebacker out of the gate. In a 4-3 defense continuity is paramount in the middle, and as such Kuechly would be consistent, even if there is a drop off in year one. This would take some of the pressure off Beason to be the stalwart run stopper, and would allow him to be spelled with Thomas Davis as needed on the outside, in turn giving him time to rest.
Obviously we all hope Jon Beason will be back to his old self as soon as possible, and I have no doubt this team's leader will play as hard as he can every single down. However, that doesn't mean he should be put through too much in his first year back. If nothing else the Carolina Panthers are good at learning from their mistakes, and with Thomas Davis now attempting to make his third return from injury I doubt the Panthers will ask too much of Beason in 2012.