The unfortunate injuries that Kevin White has sustained in the NFL leave his entire future at risk. No matter what the Bears say.
Explosion, top-end speed, power …. those are just some of the adjectives used to describe White when he was coming out of West Virginia. After taking an interesting path, that included a stint in junior college, White emerged as a top receiving prospect when entering the 2015 NFL Draft.
All his strengths were pretty obvious. He has great hands, ideal size and God-gifted speed …. White was known as quite the play-maker his senior season.
The doubts were obvious as well. Only 23 total division one games to scout, essentially a one-year wonder and his lack of recruitment out of high school were all deemed as things NFL teams were going to examine very closely.
The end result was the seventh overall pick by the Chicago Bears. There was a need to fill with the recent departure of Brandon Marshall, and …. something not talked about as much as you’d think it would be, all the other top picks were already taken.
See, the thing is White fell right into Chicago’s lap, he wasn’t expected to be there at number seven. Almost all the mocks leading up to the 2015 draft had Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Dante Fowler Jr., Amari Cooper, Leonard Williams and Kevin White as the top players in the draft … by a decent margin. Did you notice how many of them there were?
Six. The Bears were picking seventh. That is why most Chicago mock drafts had selections like Vic Beasley, Trae Waynes or Danny Shelton. The wildcard was Washington’s pick of offensive tackle Brandon Scherff, almost nobody saw that coming. That allowed White to fall to the Bears.
If you’re paying close attention, there were SIX prospects deemed elite, but for some reason the first six teams all chose to pass on White. Why?
Kind of hard to answer that question, might be easier to figure out why the Bears took him. The answer to that appears to be because he filled a need, was deemed elite and White wasn’t supposed to be available. Therefore, when it was Chicago’s turn to draft it made the pick quite easy.
Fast forward two years and White has only played in four games….this leaves a glaring question.
Were his injuries predictable? The answer to that is essentially no. The reason it is “no” is because White’s injuries came in the form of bone breaks / fractures, it’s not like they were deteriorating muscles that could have been identified as weak during the draft process. However, the reason I say “essentially” is because his first injury was non-contact. Starting as a stress fracture in his shin, and ending with a steel rod in his leg, White’s first injury of a fractured tibia is reportedly due to over-training.
“The Bears, Pace said, learned of White’s stress fracture during organized team activities in June and immediately shut the receiver down, hopeful the injury would heal on its own.”
The 2015 NFL Draft was from April 30 – May 2, this basically means that White was part of the Bears for about one month before they “learned of his stress fracture.” What are the chances that this stress fracture was older than advertised and the very reason Washington went another route during the draft?
The answer to that may never come out. It would be extremely embarrassing to Ryan Pace, and the entire Bears organization, if it did. So don’t expect anything concrete, but you can connect the dots.
Considering hindsight in 20/20, and we can’t change the past anyway, the most important thing people want to know now is what White’s future holds. After sustaining a second season-ending injury that required surgery in 2016, Bears fans are now starting to doubt if White will ever again be the impact player he once was.
Safe to say that’s a legitimate concern, no?
“This is 100-percent recoverable,” Pace said. “And it’s also, when you come off of a major injury like this, and you guys know this, it’s a matter of getting your body aligned. I think again there’s a gate analysis to make sure your hips and your hamstrings are ready to play at that speed.”
That was Pace’s most recent update on White’s situation. Like every other GM in the NFL, his word-choice was key. Yes, the injury is “100% recoverable” but the chances of White recovering and returning to the level he was previously playing at definitely aren’t.
According to multiple medical studies, I found an interesting statistic.
On average, 25% of athletes who fracture their tibia (requiring surgery) never return to the same level of play. (Kevin White injury) #Bears
— ✶ SM ✶ Chris (@SM_CBur) January 11, 2017
The good news about this is professional athletes are much more likely to fall into the other 75% than regular people.
The bad news is a fractured tibia is only one of White’s injuries … he also sustained a fracture fibula in 2016 that also required surgery.
When a fractured tibia is repaired, via surgery, a steel rod and screws are inserted to align the bone. When a fractured fibula is repaired, they normally insert a metal plate, screws and pins. Nobody is 100% sure exactly what White has in his legs, but reports have confirmed he had a steel rod with screws after the first surgery, and a spiral fracture for the second. The spiral fracture came from excessive force when his leg was turned during a high ankle sprain.
“If surgery is required, it is generally performed immediately. Pins, plates, and screws are utilized in order to achieve solid fixation of the bony ends.”
Now, clearly I am not a doctor by any means, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure all this out.
When you look at examples like Paul George and Kevin Ware, these are basketball players who gruesomely injured their tibia’s. They have both now seemingly returned to their old selves after surgery and a long recovery period.
They fall into that 75% of athletes who are likely to return back to their former playing levels.
Joe Theisman, on the other hand, is a bad example. His gruesome tibia injury was so bad he was forced to retire.
White’s injuries are unique to these situations though. He didn’t gruesomely injure his tibia, nor has he contemplated retirement because of it.
Instead, he has broken both shin bones in the same leg and has had them surgically repaired with rods, screws and plates. This means he falls into the “unknown” category.
As confident as Pace seems to be, his reputation more or less depends on it.
The real truth is this ….
Kevin White has sustained injuries that have forever changed the way his legs feel. Rods, screws and plates are the recommended way of fixing such injuries but there’s no guarantee they will stay in place. Sure, something like a MCL/ACL combination would be considered much worse, but there’s no promises these “fractures” are going to be fully recoverable.
I am not insinuating that White will have lifelong problems with his legs, I am simply saying that he was considered an elite athlete due to his lower body explosion and there’s good reason to believe that will never be the same after the two recent surgeries.
When you add in the possibility of White’s first fracture happening before the time the Bears selected him, that’s only more of a reason for Pace to remain positive and try to save face.
Alshon Jeffery’s contract is up in the air, Eddie Royal was a terrible signing and there’s no real way to predict what the future holds for Kevin White.
How long do you wait before you add “receiver” to Chicago top draft needs?
As far as White goes, I can confidently say this….. Bears fans will likely give you one more chance, too many people watched what happened with Derrick Rose. If he suffers another significant injury that forces him to miss a good portion of 2017, then his professional football career will likely over…. before it ever really began.