New England Patriots rookie RB Robert Edwards was a star in the making. He touched the football 346 times, gained 1,507 yards and scored a combined 13 touchdowns on the ground and through the air.
Edwards was the 18th overall pick of the 1998 NFL draft. The Georgia product had impact on the Patriots. Edwards had big shoes to fill, as he replaced star RB Curtis Martin who had left for the New York Jets. He was a NFL star in the making.
The NFL sent Edwards to Hawaii to participate in the lead up to the Pro Bowl. No, he was not picked to actually play in the game, but as one of the season’s outstanding rookies, the league invited him to partake in the so-called “Rookie Beach Bowl” alongside other top draft picks like the Indianapolis Colts Peyton Manning or the Oakland Raiders Charles Woodson. Woodson, in fact, was on the same team as Edwards.
Edwards jumped up to defend a pass in a four-on-four flag football game. He landed awkwardly and did not feel any pain right away. The pain would come later.
After he was carried off the field under applause and placed on a buffet table for initial evaluation. The pain started in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.
Edwards had not only torn three ligaments in his left knee — the ACL, MCL and PCL — and partially tore his LCL tendon as well, he had also suffered major nerve damage. On top of all this, and most serious of all his injuries, he had sliced the artery in his left leg.
Edwards was told that his leg might have to be amputated if the blood flow was not sufficiently stopped or the sutures in his artery did not hold. His dream of playing football again was over either way, according to the doctors, and even if his leg was saved the injury might still severely impact his ability to walk in the future.
The leg was saved and Edwards was able to walk again. He tried to return to football in 2001. During training camp with the Patriots, he suffered a groin injury that set him back. New England ended up releasing him.
In 2002, the Miami Dolphins gave Edwards another chance at continuing his NFL dream. He made Miami’s roster as a change-of-pace back and appeared in 12 games. Edwards 38 times for 233 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the season.
After leaving the Dolphins, Edwards would go on to continue his career in Canada before stepping away from football for good in 2008.
A once promising career was altered, due to a freak injury. It serves as a reminder of just how quickly the NFL dream can die.
Former NFL RB Robert Edwards. Photo courtsey of Boston.com