Derek Newton sat out all of the 2017 season for the Texans recovering from tearing BOTH his patellar tendons in his knee on the same play. One of the few success stories from Rick Smith drafting in Rounds 4-7, Newton was the 214th selection in the 2011 NFL Draft. He rotated with OT Eric Winston during his rookie year and played in 14 games. When the Texans released Winston before the start of the 2012 season, Newton took over the starting role, surrounded by a wave of criticism that he would not be ready. For the next four seasons, Newton started 62 of 64 games, mostly at right tackle, and developed into one of the more consistent right tackles in the league.
Ominously, Newton missed Week 6 of the 2016 season because of a knee and ankle injury. This snapped his 56-consecutive starts streak. In Week 7 against the Broncos, Von Miller broke down Newton with a double move and Newton subsequently tore both of his patellar tendons midway through the first quarter.
IF - and that is a big if - you want to watch the injury and a breakdown of what happened, watch the video here.
Originally considered a career-threatening injury, Newton’s recovery since 2016 has definitely made progress. The Houston Chronicle (in 2016 after Newton’s injury) spoke to the Chargers’ team doctor David Chao:
“I am not aware of an NFL athlete, who came back to play at a similar level after this injury,” said former San Diego Chargers team doctor David Chao, who doesn’t treat Newton. “The injury is very rare. It’s not a once-a-year injury. This is a once-every five years. This is harder to come back from than a torn ACL. To have two of them is devastating, but, yes, he should be walking in three months. There’s a big difference between walking and playing.
”Look how long it took Duane Brown to come back from a torn quadriceps tendon, and this is much more serious. I wouldn’t be shocked if there’s also a torn ACL involved. I feel bad for the kid. A ruptured patellar tendon is three times worse than an ACL. Guys who tear an ACL like Geno Smith walk off the field. ACL surgeries are arthroscopic. A patellar tendon is an open surgery, a major reattachment. This is a very big deal for him to come back from.”
Bill O’Brien recently updated the media about Newton’s rehab program and ability to be back for the upcoming offseason program.
“I would say he’s on schedule, but I wouldn’t say that he’d be able to a ton of things this spring,” O’Brien said, and then noted Newton’s work ethic to get back to the field. “Nobody’s worked harder than Derek Newton to try to get back to where he is.”
Rehabbing for over a year can seem like an eternity. I recall during Jadeveon Clowney’s recovery from knee injuries reading him say that he was rusty and just wanted to get out of the trainer’s room.
“He’s a very hardworking guy,” O’Brien said. “The guy’s been in there every single day at 6 a.m. five days a week. He probably comes in on the weekends on his own.”
It’s relieving to hear these updates and that Newton is working his tail off to get back on the field. However, it appears that Newton has a ways to go to make the transition from progress in the rehab program to joining the team for on-field activities.
O’Brien also noted that Newton is “probably not (going to be) able to do a bunch of field work. He can, rehab-wise, but not in team periods and things like that.”
From this timeline, it looks like Newton could potentially be available a few weeks into the season.
Newton was one of the most underappreciated players in franchise history. His consistency at right tackle has been sorely missed since he went down. Now over 500 days since Newton was hurt, we finally get some news regarding his health and recovery process.
No one should ever give Derek Newton grief for taking his time or not even being able to return to the NFL. As someone who has torn his ACL before, the idea of tearing tendons in both knees sounds downright demoralizing. The therapy and time commitment Newton has undertaken is a testament to his will and professionalism.
If Newton can return to form, he will most likely be in a rotational role with Seantrel Henderson, the recently signed tackle from the Bills. Not giving Newton the full load would be advantageous to his recovery and shedding of rust. Not playing for an entire year in the NFL for most athletes means they are likely out of the league. The positive signs from Bill O’Brien make me hopeful for a productive return to the field for the offensive lineman.