Running back Chris Carson has been one of the great NFL stories in recent lore – a seventh-round draft pick in 2017 with no guarantee of making the Seattle Seahawks‘ roster in the post-Marshawn Lynch era to the featured back who posted back-to-back seasons with more than 1,150 rushing yards. He never seemed to have a career locked down for himself, especially when the Seahawks used a first-round pick in 2018 on RB Rashaad Penny.
Overcoming long odds, Carson was the man and it looked to stay that way — until last season when he suffered a severe neck injury that ended his season after just four games and required a significant surgery to repair the damage. Unlike other routine surgeries, neck injuries are a different topic completely. The can end athletic careers, much less one of running backs who have large men with bad intentions and often a full head of steam chasing them down every time they get their hands on the ball.
The Seahawks have put no timetable on when – or if – Carson can return. In an interview during Seattle’s OTAs, head coach Pete Carroll referenced Carson in the past tense a couple of times – giving the clear insinuation that he may never be coming back to resume his NFL career. While he said all the right things in terms of the Seahawks players being a family and sticking by their injured brothers when they’re down and uncertain about their future, Carroll sounded much more resigned to the idea Carson may not want to come back to resume his career for quality of life concerns.
His biggest hurdle may end up being Carson’s inability to get medical clearance from the Seahawks’ doctors. In the case of neck injuries, there is a very high standard that needs to be reached before clearance is given, and those types of injuries are the result of as many retirements as returns to field.
The Seahawks re-signed Penny in the offseason to hedge their bets in the event Carson can’t come back from his neck injury and doubled down by drafting Doak Walker Award winner Kenneth Walker III from Michigan State in the second round of the 2022 draft. Seattle has a lot of needs, and quarterbacks were available. That move spoke volumes.
Throw in carryover players DeeJay Dallas and Travis Homer and Seattle has a stable of running backs who can get along just fine whether Carson is there or not.
Fantasy football outlook
It’s always tragic when a career is cut short by injury and a player’s dream dies with it in his 20s, but there are other factors that need to come into play outside the entertainment world of the NFL.
Carson fulfilled his dream of playing in the NFL and earning a second contract that potentially sets him up for life after football. Some players are willing to accept the risks, but in this case, don’t be stunned if Carson eventually announces his retirement without every playing again. It may not be in the coming weeks or months, but his fantasy value has dropped off the table, because he doesn’t need to make a business decision. He needs to make a life decision. Carson has no fantasy value at this point.