Following the regular season, I wrote an article on New York Jets running back Breece Hall. Within that piece I outlined how Breece Hall would likely be cleared to play in 2023 but would be unlikely to perform on par with the Breece Hall we saw in 2022. The reason for this was because Breece Hall suffered an ACL injury and while ACL injuries have a 6-12 month recovery period to return to the field, the timeline for a running back with an ACL injury to return to their pre-injury performance levels was more in the range of two seasons. Specifically, I wrote:
Taken together, the accumulation of data above suggests that injuries can have long-term effects even after a player is medically cleared. For James Robinson, data suggests that his performance may never fully recover. For Breece Hall, data suggests we may see a lesser level of performance from him next season but that this dropoff may be short-lived.
Thankfully, now that months have passed, reports do seem to suggest that the Jets are aware of this timeline as it pertains to Breece Hall.
Can’t stress enough how the Jets want to ramp Breece back up at a slow pace— Connor Rogers (@ConnorJRogers) July 27, 2023
Him near full throttle the 2nd half of the season opens the door for a potential large workload for Cook in the 1st half https://t.co/Y5KJHmqq8H
However, Breece Hall is not the only Jets player who is returning from a major injury, and this difference between “cleared” (can play on an NFL field) and “healthy” (is at full-ish strength) does not only apply to him. While this distinction has been somewhat overlooked by fans as it relates to Hall, it has become a bit more of a hot button topic as it pertains to another Jets player: offensive tackle Mekhi Becton.
For Becton, he is currently recovering from his second major knee injury in the past 24 months. On Thursday, Becton took himself off of the field in the game between the New York Jets and Cleveland Browns due to concerns about the stability of his knee.
Mekhi Becton cites the turf at Hall of Fame Stadium as a reason why he left the game early:— Jets Videos (@snyjets) August 4, 2023
"That turf isn't friendly for people with my size and my type of injury. I was feeling it in warmups so I just pulled myself a little early. I'm good, though. I'm sure." pic.twitter.com/9bY9KNoWqa
For some fans, this was a sign of a player who wasn’t tough enough to hack it. For others, this was a sign of a player intelligently managing his injury. For Head Coach Robert Saleh, it seemed to be a bit of both.
Robert Saleh said that Mekhi Becton had talked with the trainers & had decided "that was enough for now"— Harrison Glaser (@NYJetsTFMedia) August 4, 2023
Saleh said there were no setbacks, but Mekhi Becton "probably had a confidence issue" with his knee & "he has to be able to push through whatever he might be feeling"#Jets
However, while these frustrations around Becton’s recovery time are understandable, they ignore a big piece of context. Specifically, Becton tried to play through the pain last training camp and missed the entire season, benefitting neither himself nor the New York Jets.
I ask again, what was Becton doing on the practice field today with a very clear and visible limp/hobble? The injury happened shortly after these reps.— Jets Today (@NYJetsToday_) August 9, 2022
Can any sports medicine doctors out there talk to me? Is it risky to participate in contact sports with a sore knee?#Jets https://t.co/deMmLujf4o
So for Becton, it is important to keep in mind that just because a player has been cleared to take the field does not mean that they are ready to participate in full or to meet their previous standards. While this conversation is most pertinent to Becton right now, it will also likely apply to Breece Hall later in the year and other Jets players in future years, and should be accounted for in any related player evaluations made by fans or NFL personnel.