From a Pro Bowler in 2015 to playing only five games from 2016-17.
That’s what life’s roller coaster had in store for Jason Verrett. One of the fiercest competitors in the NFL, it’s eaten away at Verrett that he hasn’t been able to show his complete skillset over the past two seasons.
In fact, he says he was only completely healthy for two of those five games. Verrett is such a competitor that he didn’t even know he had suffered a partially torn ACL in Week 2 when he took the field for two more games.
After returning to action during last summer’s training camp, number 22 started Week 1 in Denver. However, Head Coach Anthony Lynn noted how the cornerback didn’t look like his usual self. Further tests showed he needed another procedure done on that same ACL in order to properly correct it, costing him another full season.
Now, Verrett says he’s feeling better than any point in the last two years.
It also helps that he has a proven track record of overcoming adversity.
“It’s been a long process for me,” he said. “I think that this is something that is just going to be a part of my story. I wasn’t given a scholarship out of high school. I had to go the Juco route. I had a bunch of adversity at TCU my first year, and then the last two years being a two-time All-American. So this adversity has been a part of my life for a while now. This is nothing I feel that’s a setback. It’s just more so a learning experience. It will help me on the back end of my career to add some more years to my career. That’s just the way I’m looking at and approaching it. I’m definitely a lot better than I was from the previous surgery last year. I’m feeling a lot better in my extension and flexion. It’s a night and day difference.”
Meanwhile, General Manager Tom Telesco explained how getting Verrett back in the fold to join Casey Hayward and Trevor Williams in 2018 could form one of the top cornerback trios in the NFL.
“I think it’s tremendous,” Telesco said. “I really like the work the secondary did this year. Obviously they benefit from our pass rush, but you still have to cover in the back end. I thought the corners and safeties did a great job throughout the whole year. Having the chance to add Jason to that group, I mean, you can’t beat that. Jason is doing really well with his rehab. He should be ready to go hopefully I think during the offseason program. And like I said, to add a guy like Jason, who is a Pro Bowl caliber player and has shown it before, to add him to that group is very exciting.”
Verrett doesn’t lack for motivation.
After all, he has an inner drive rivaled by few others.
Still, he admits seeing Keenan Allen’s success this season has further inspired him.
Just like Verrett, Allen missed virtually a full year and a half. After being shutdown with a kidney injury midway through the 2015 campaign, the wide receiver suffered a torn ACL in the first half in Week 1 the following year.
It was a long road back, but Allen returned with a vengeance, appearing in all 16 games this season. Not only that, he authored the greatest receiving season in Chargers history, setting a franchise record in catches (102) and the second-most receiving yards (1,393). He also set a new record for catches on third down, hauling in a league-leading 36 in the clutch.
“That’s my dog, and I’ve seen him go through the kidney injury and the ACL and how he battled through that to do what he did,” Verrett said. “A guy like him, he’s another uplifting person that I can look at like, ‘Damn, he handled his adversity well. I’m going to do the same thing he did as far as making tons of plays and getting back to a Pro Bowl level.’ He inspires me and I want to follow in his footsteps. With what he went through, and with the season he had, I have a ton of respect for him.”
Seeing the success the entire team had in 2017 also fuels his fire to be another key piece to the puzzle in 2018.
“How we executed down the stretch from starting 0-4, and winning nine of the last 12, and just the energy and chemistry, just the whole atmosphere in this locker room and on the field is something you definitely want to be a part of. I definitely want to get back out there. I see the energy after fumbles and interceptions, how they’re posing in the end zones, so it’s definitely uplifted me seeing all of them have fun. I can’t wait to be back with them.”