Pro football

AL HAMNIK: Johnny Knox must walk away while he still can

2013-02-12T17:30:00Z 2013-02-14T14:59:06Z AL HAMNIK: Johnny Knox must walk away while he still canAl Hamnik Times Columnist nwitimes.com
February 12, 2013 5:30 pm  • 

Last summer at Bears training camp in Bourbonnais, curious fans wondered who that frail-looking kid was watching practice from the sidelines at Olivet Nazarene University.

Occasionally, he'd retrieve a football that had bounced his way, then throw a perfect spiral to some coach or player on the field.

The kid wore a Bears cap and sweats and could've been one of those college students who check media IDs, run errands for the coaching staff or direct fans to the proper parking lots.

It was Bears' wide receiver Johnny Knox, looking more like a POW than a pro football player.

Physically, he was barely recognizable after his devastating back injury on Dec. 18, 2011, against the Seattle Seahawks at Soldier Field.

Knox was on both knees attempting to recover his fumble when he got steamrolled by Seattle's Anthony Hargrove, who bent him backwards like a human pretzel.

It was a hideous hit and Knox required emergency surgery to repair a fractured vertebra. He suffered no paralysis, a miracle indeed.

But his career was over as many suspected. It was just a matter of finally making it official.

On Tuesday, a 13-word news release from the team simply read: "The Chicago Bears terminated the contract of vested veteran WR Johnny Knox today."

The 140th overall pick of the 2009 draft can't play anymore, shouldn't play anymore, and hopefully he's smart enough to agree.

No one, least of all Knox, knows what the next hard tackle, clip, hold or block will bring. So why risk life in a wheelchair?

The NFL likes to avoid high risks.

And with the Bears' extensive housecleaning up at Halas Hall, including an entirely new coaching staff, the organization has no obligation to Johnny Knox.

So what if he played 45 games in three seasons, hauling in 133 receptions for 2,214 yards and 12 touchdowns?

So what if his 16.6 yard average per reception was seventh best in the NFL during that time?

So what if he had 1,506 yards on 55 kickoff returns with the Bears -- a 27.4 average -- and earned a Pro Bowl nod as a returner in 2009?

That's all history now. Put it on a plaque and save it for your kids one day, Johnny.

But it's of no use to the Bears, whose new leadership is out to win championships ASAP.

Knox has told teammates and media he wants to play again; that he's working his way back. But almost in the same breath, he admits there are still drawbacks in his recovery.

There is still pain and discomfort, a red flag for sure.

I hope Knox doesn't sign with another NFL team or get invited to their camps. They can't be that desperate, nor can he.

Your NFL career is over, now go have a life.

Walk away, kid, while you're still able.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at al.hamnik@nwi.com.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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