According to a tweet from NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Andy Reid informed reporters, after the Chiefs’ loss to the Bengals today, that tackle Lucas Niang suffered a torn patellar tendon. Worries were high for the second-year lineman when he needed to be carted off early in the first quarter. Unfortunately, this type of injury not only prevents Niang from returning this year, but, even after extensive rehabilitation, it could hamper Niang for years to come.
Niang was a third-round pick for the Chiefs two years ago, but was one of several players who opted out of the 2020-21 NFL season due to COVID-19 concerns. In what is effectively his rookie season, Niang has been a key player on the line, starting 8 games this season while dealing with some injuries and spending some time on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
Kansas City was already short their other starting tackle, Orlando Brown, as he was scratched early this morning with a calf injury. The Chiefs pushed guard Joe Thuney to left tackle and relied on Andrew Wylie at right tackle. Wylie has been filling in for Niang this year and Kansas City will likely continue to depend on him into the playoffs. The loss of Brown is much more concerning for the immediate future and they will hope to get him back in time for a January run.
As for Niang, a speedy and efficient recovery is the best hope. Tears of the patellar tendon have a penchant for ruining careers. While players have been known to rehab and return, few have looked like their former selves after. Players like former Giants’ receiver Victor Cruz and former Buccaneers’ running back Cadillac Williams have returned to play only to look like shadows of their former selves. Longtime former Patriots’ linebacker Jerod Mayo retired shortly after his diagnosis.
Bears’ tight end Jimmy Graham is a rare example of a player who returned to play and continued being his dominant self. After Graham was traded to the Seahawks, he never quite reached the thousand-yards-receiving-coupled-with-double-digit-touchdown seasons of his days with the Saints, but, after tearing his right patellar tendon in his first season in Seattle, Graham returned to Pro Bowl play each of the next two years and set a Seahawks’ franchise record for single season touchdowns by a tight end with 10 in 2017.
We obviously hope for a best case scenario outcome like this as Niang deals with one of football’s biggest nemeses. Torn patellar tendons have ruined too many careers before they began. Our hopes go out to Lucas as he prepares to tackle a daunting injury and we wish him a long and healthy career.