Column: Outrage over the comeback award

E.J. Henderson (Pablo Martinez Monsivias/AP)

The NFL Comeback Player of the Year was Michael Vick, whose own stupidity put him in jail before his comeback. E.J. Henderson is the real comeback player, and the voters missed the mark badly on this one.

It isn't often that I'm outraged by something I see. But if nobody else opts to man-up and call the voters for the NFL Comeback Player of the Year, what is outrage worth?

On the eve of the Super Bowl, the NFL announced the Comeback Player of the Year. E.J. Henderson finished third. What?

Apparently, the definition of Comeback Player of the Year has changed. The CPOY I remember was someone who overcame physical adversity to reclaim his spot in the NFL. While the three top finishers – Michael Vick, Mike Williams and Henderson – all meet that criteria, they got to the position of consideration for much different reasons. It is the reasons that make the final vote a joke.

Vick won the award by proving that a stint at Leavenworth doesn't kill an NFL career. You get sent there for a reason. Were federal prosecutors celebrating when the put a celebrity away – based almost exclusively on his "friends" ratting him out? Definitely. That's how the feds work. Numbers and high-profile convictions. But, I think I could have convinced 12 rational people Vick was guilty of dog fighting charges – and I'm not a lawyer (ding!). If the NFL had a Rehabilitated Player of the Year, Vick's my pick. Next year, I'll vote for Plaxico Burress.

Vick's "comeback" is from federal prison – nothing more, nothing less. He was sent away for heinous activities that a lot of people find reprehensible, regardless of his athletic ability.

Second place went to Williams. Why? Because he returned from the self-inflicted death. Drafted by the Lions in 2005 and paid handsomely as a result, he bloated like a woman with high-sodium needs and played himself out of Detroit – no small feat. Brief stints in Tennessee and Oakland proved fruitless in 2007 and he was out of the league for two years before his old college coach (Pete Carroll) got a job in the NFL and found a way to resurrect his career from sitting around doing nothing. What an achievement!

Henderson finished third. Why? Because he went to jail? Nope. Because he was charged with stealing money from the Lions after posting a weight-gaining factor of 15? Nope. Why? Because, when he taken off a football field in Arizona with his upper leg snapped like a dry twig.

It's hard to put that moment in perspective. I've spoken with his teammates, including his brother Erin. I've spoken with head coach Leslie Frazier about it. I've spoken with head trainer Eric Sugarman about it. They all agreed – at the time it happened, they all thought E.J.'s career was over. He has to provide paperwork when he goes to the airport because he had a titanium rod surgically-inserted into his thigh in hopes he could play again. Not only did he return, he came back the first day of training camp and didn't look back.

Third place? Oh, hell no. Perhaps part of the collective bargaining negotiations should focus more on players like Henderson, whose love of the game pushes him to come back, rather than players like Vick – who gets the franchise tag as reward for his version of rehabilitation. As for Williams, just pay him and see what you get. Welcome back to obscurity.

I never thought bronze was more valuable than gold, but on this particular medal stand, give me third place, too.

SUPER SUNDAY NOTES

  • Cris Carter's wait for the Hall of Fame is likely to be markedly longer than initially expected. For the second straight year, Carter was one of the five finalists not to make the final cut, along with former Viking Chris Doleman, Charles Haley, Curtis Martin and Jerome Bettis. What makes the journey to Canton harder for Carter is that two other wide receivers – Tim Brown and Andre Reed – both made the final cut. Logic would dictate, given the demarcation of the players, that more of the Gang of 44 voters believe both Brown and Reed are more deserving than C.C.

  • In an interesting twist, the selection of Ed Sabol, founder of NFL Films, brought an interesting dynamic to the protocol. Word out of St. Louis, where Howard Balzer is one of the chosen few, is that at least four of the 44 voters (9 percent) were pre-disposed to not voting Sabol into the Hall. Yet, needing 80 percent or more of the vote to get in, that minority was vocal, yet ineffective.

  • A personal congrats to Deion Sanders. In my few dealings with him as a player, while he had a reputation for being petulant, he was nothing but class in my book – and got many an offensive coordinator to game plan with two-thirds of the field in mind, ignoring Deion's third of the field.

  • From the "Kum-Bi-Ya" Department comes this: The NFL and the players association held a rare face-to-face discussion viewed as negotiating Saturday and released a joint statement saying they hope to have a new CBA in place by the time the current deal expires March 3.

  • The Super Bowl prediction here: Pittsburgh 27, Green Bay 23. If it's wrong, we'll delete it like so many others do.


    John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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