The Bears announced on Tuesday that they have terminated the contract of veteran wide receiver Johnny Knox.
Knox, 26, missed all of the 2012 season after suffering an absolutely gruesome back injury vs. the Seahawks in 2011 that forced him to undergo spinal fusion surgery. He's been adamant in his confidence that he'll be able to fully recover and get back on the field again, but the Bears clearly feel that's not going to happen anytime soon. And it's very possible that will not happen again at all (but we certainly hope that's not the case).
Here's more from the Chicago Tribune's Vaughn McClure:
Multiple sources indicated the structural damage Knox suffered would make it difficult for him to return to football again. The initial outlook was four to six months of recovery just to perform normal activities, and even longer before Knox could return to football.
That optimism changed when the structural damage was discovered during surgery. Knox's back was unstable and there were more torn ligaments than anticipated. The nerve damage couldn't be assessed until after the surgery, and Knox had to wear a back brace for a while after the procedure.
And you may be thinking, "Wasn't Knox supposed to be a free agent anyway? Why did the Bears have to terminate his contract?"
McClure on that topic:
Knox collected his $1.26 million salary while sitting out this past season. His contract originally was supposed to expire after the ’12 campaign. But according to rules of the collective bargaining agreement, when a player in the last year of his contract is on the PUP list that entire season, his contract can be rolled over to the next season, at the team’s discretion.
Knox was as fifth round pick for the Bears in 2009 out of Abilene Christian, and immediately impressed that year in training camp with his blazing speed. He would go on to catch 45 passes in his rookie season for 527 yards and five touchdowns, and have 32 kick returns for 927 yards (29.0 average) and a touchdown. His kick returning efforts earned him a trip to the Pro Bowl. Quite remarkable rookie production out of a fifth round pick.
In 2010, Knox had 51 receptions (tied for team lead) for a team-leading 960 yards (18.8 average) and five touchdowns. He continued to be a big-play weapon for the Bears in 2011 before the injury, catching 37 passes for 727 yards (19.6 average) and two touchdowns in 14 games played. His 16.6 yards per reception over his three seasons ranked seventh in the NFL over that time.
The Bears sorely missed Knox in 2012, as they didn't have a big-play guy to stretch the field and take some defensive attention away from Brandon Marshall. And even if the Bears gave Knox a chance to make the 2013 roster, they certainly couldn't have counted on him for much production, so in my opinion they needed to find a vertical threat in free agency or the draft anyway. Now that need just becomes more evident.
UPDATE: Johnny Knox tells the Chicago Sun-Times that he is done playing football. We wish him all the best in his post-football career, and he'll certainly remain welcome around the Chicago Bears family for life.
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