Jordyn Brooks’ ACL Rehab and a Possible Candidate at Linebacker
Wyatt Spithaler, DPT
March 14, 2023
Star Seattle Seahawks linebacker Jordyn Brooks tore his ACL in Week 17 against the New York, side-lining him for the season finale and the team’s NFL Wild Card appearance behind a surprise 2022-23 season for QB Geno Smith. Brooks had successful surgery on January 19th. Seahawks Head Coach Pete Carroll said Brooks is “doing really well…but it’s going to be a while”. Jordyn Brooks has a lot of positives on his side in his recovery. This is his first ACL tear, he’s young, extremely fit and has access to top rehabilitation services and providers.
ACL Rehab: To return as a full participant in an elite-level sport takes time - what does this look like? Los Angeles Rams Wide Receiver Cooper Kupp made an amazingly quick recovery from his ACL tear in just 301 days. For many athletes, walking can happen in the first 2 weeks, sometimes 1 week using a brace that limits range of motion and crutches. The transition to walking without crutches is a symptom-guided one. If the athlete can walk without worsening pain and swelling, that transition can generally be made. Perhaps the biggest point of rehab at this stage is quadriceps activation and swelling management.
Weeks 3-5 are when more cardio on a bike, hamstring and glute strengthening begin. Range of motion progresses and emphasis on quadriceps strengthening and activation continues at regular progressive intervals. Week 9 is when very early, sub-maximal sport-specific exercises and activities begin in a front-to-back direction - still little to no rotational or lateral movements until the physical therapist can determine the athlete is ready to progress.
3-5 months post-surgery, the athlete can begin a return-to-running protocol. Plyometrics and progressions or sport-specific activities are introduced and progresses in this phase as well - starting to resemble more of what Brooks will need to do to return to the gridiron. Progressing to the next phase will require the physical therapist to perform testing of hop performance and hamstring to quad strength ratios comparing the operative leg to the healthy one. 6 months and beyond is when there is an unrestricted return to sport and related activities as long as the athlete has met all of the goals and requirements for the protocol up to that point.
Brooks tore his ACL on January 1st, 2023. So around the first week of June is when he can begin fully returning to training for football. He will not be a physical participant in OTA’s and with only 6-7 weeks between June 1st and training camp, it will be a stretch for him to be a participant. Comparing to Cooper Kupp, day 301 is October 28, 2023. So even if Brooks matches one of the quickest ACL recovery times, he’s going to miss the first 7 weeks of 2023. So what does this mean for the Seahawks at the linebacker position?
Right time, right place? In perhaps providential timing, the Los Angeles Rams recently cut Bobby Wagner - a phenom linebacker who helped Seattle win Super Bowl XLVIII in dominant fashion against the Denver Broncos who were the highest scoring offense in NFL history. Wagner was a cap casualty in L.A. and is looking for a new home, or may call it a career - but he has plenty left in the tank. Seattle has been known to bring back former Seahawks players in veteran free agency. Most notably Marshawn Lynch in 2019 and Bruce Irvin in 2022. Both players easily fell back into their prior habits and made an immediate impact.
Wagner played 10 seasons in Seattle, was 1st team All-Pro 4 times, selected to the Pro Bowl 8 times and has only finished a season with less than 115 total tackles twice in his entire career. He’s obviously a standout option at a position group that has more question marks than answers as we approach the new league year this month. Seattle’s linebacking corps includes Bruce Irvin who may choose the retired life, Cody Barton who is a free agent but had his best statistical season in 2022 and Tanner Muse, a largely unproven 3 year LB.
Free Agency or Draft? If Seattle wanted to go the veteran route and Bobby Wagner didn’t go back, Tampa Bay Buccaneers LB Lavonte David is a free agent but was a part of the same draft class as Wagner and doesn’t bring any long-term solution at LB either. Buffalo Bills LB Tremaine Edmunds is available and a 5 year vet and 2x Pro Bowler.
It’s largely presumed that Seattle will take an edge rusher at 5th overall, at which pick Myles Murphy was a favorite prediction but his recent injury at the NFL Combine may hurt his draft stock. Whether or not Seattle resigns Geno Smith, tries to draft a QB or both, linebacker needs help.
Fantasy Implications: If you’re one of the few hardcore fantasy players who use Individual Defensive Players (IDP’s), both Jordyn Brooks and Bobby Wagner were considerable options in 2022. If you play redraft leagues, Brooks is a clear and obvious “do not draft” in 2023 to me, unless it’s a last round type situation. If Wagner decides to continue playing he is still a top IDP. He had more passes defended than Micah Parsons and had 9 fewer combined tackles in 2022 alone than Parsons has had in his 2-year career. With 2 points-per-tackle being a largely accepted scoring system for IDP’s, seems like a clear answer as to who I’d pick, even going into his 12th season.