As recently as a decade ago, a complete Achilles tendon tear was a death sentence for the NFL's speed-reliant skill-position players.
Post-injury success remains elusive for one position, however. Our research concludes that no running back ever has recaptured sustained pre-injury form after rupturing an Achilles tendon. Perhaps it's because the position relies so heavily on a combination of speed, cutting ability and physicality.
Edgar Bennett, formerly of the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears, and Andre Brown of the New York Giants, are the position's best representatives. Bennett bounced back with 611 rushing yards in 1998 after sitting out the 1997 season. A more telling sign is that Bennett averaged a paltry 3.5 yards per carry and called it quits after managing just six attempts the following year.
Brown was waived or released nearly a dozen times before finding a small window of success in 2012, only to go down with a season-ending broken fibula. That's not atypical. Achilles tears are infamous for leading to further leg injuries down the line.
To be fair, it should be noted that no running back has come back at full speed because no elite running back ever has ruptured his Achilles.
The next test case is San Francisco 49ers backup Kendall Hunter, who started training camp on the active/physically unable to perform list. Even if he stays healthy and productive, Hunter will have to beat out Marcus Lattimore and LaMichael James for the starting job once Frank Gore hangs up his spikes.