This quarterback trio — Andrew Luck, Aaron Rodgers and Deshaun Watson — return from injury this season with giant hopes while under scorching glare.
Can each be as good as before? Will each snap again?
Luck is back attempting to rule his division, the AFC South. Rodgers looks to dominate again in the NFC North. Watson also seeks the AFC South crown. Each realizes that capturing those division titles is the first step to much more.
Here is where they have been and where they are going.
The injury: Luck underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum on his right throwing shoulder in January 2017. He missed the entire season last year.
Remember this: “If I wasn’t having fun playing football, I would quit,” Luck said. “But coupled with that fun is an appreciation of the game. Appreciation for how quickly sort of it can be taken away from you.”
2018 projection from an AFC South general manager: “Andrew walked into a situation with Indianapolis where he had big shoes to fill. People don’t think about that too much now, but the wear mentally, physically, in all kinds of ways on him of replacing Peyton Manning is probably completely untold. And now throw in the injury factor. Sure, he has the tools, but that injury, anytime you start dealing with mechanics, the main mechanism, the arm for a quarterback, that is suspect and scary stuff. They’ve got to protect him, get him a running game and find him a weapon that he can count on, a go-to-guy. Nobody has any clue if he will ever be like he was.”
The injury: On Oct. 15 at Minnesota, Rodgers suffered a broken right collarbone. Four days later he underwent surgery. He missed the next seven games and returned on Dec. 17 at Carolina. After that loss diminished the Packers playoff chances, they sat Rodgers for the final two games. Thus, he missed nine games total last season.
Remember this: “I’m getting older and grumpier,” Rodgers said. “I’ve been at this for a long time.”
2018 projection from an NFC North general manager: “He could have played more last year and with today’s medicine collarbone surgery is like a scratch. I’m sure he’s quite fine. And remember he is playing for a new contract deal. Green Bay has taken its time and they had to; those numbers are going to rattle some cages. This is a guy who can create his own pocket. He can go from one side of the field to the other side and create one over there and has the arm to sling the ball everywhere. He is such a resourceful guy at always finding a way to be successful. I think he’ll be out to prove that last year was a missed opportunity. I think he’s at that stage in his career where he pretty much plays like he’ll do what he wants to do. It’s going to make him even tougher to beat.”
The injury: At a Texans practice on Nov. 2, while running a routine read-option play, Watson tore the ACL in his right knee. He missed Houston’s final nine games.
Remember this: “I’m a lot more comfortable — light years more than last year,” Watson says.
2018 projection from an AFC South general manager: “I thought he was the best quarterback in the 2017 draft. He kind of got slandered in the draft process and he was even buried in Houston at first. Now everyone clearly sees he’s a difference-maker. He can spin that ball – he is not a runner first, though he can run. I think he is the quintessential dual threat. I expect him to be one of the top five quarterbacks in the league this year. He is not someone we are looking forward to dealing with.”