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At this juncture of his NFL career, Will Peterson should be heading into his prime, not entering a period of potential football purgatory. But the former New York Giants' standout cornerback, reluctantly released by the franchise on May 26 after he failed an extensive, two-day battery of physical examinations, is facing the latter as a result of his recurring back problems.


And because, in a bizarre twist of anatomical fate, his back apparently wasn't broken badly enough in 2005, when Peterson appeared in only two regular-season games.


Confused? Well, get in line, right behind Peterson. Just, please, don't bump him in the back.


In 2003, his second year in the league, Peterson missed the final 11 games of the season after suffering a stress fracture to the right transverse process, a small bone in the lower back. Peterson returned to camp the following summer and was still so highly regarded by the Giants the team signed him to a five-year, $27 million contract extension. He responded by playing in all 16 games in 2004, arguably enjoying the best campaign of his young career.


But then last season, the back woes flared up in camp, worsened early in the season, and eventually forced Peterson, a third-round choice in the 2001 draft, onto the injured reserve list.


The diagnosis: An old displaced fracture and so-called "hot spots," an auguring of a potential stress fracture, to the left transverse process of Peterson's back. Unlike the 2003 injury, this one wasn't a full-blown fracture and, as Peterson soon learned, he might have been better off in the long run if the injury actually had been worse.


William Peterson

Will Peterson's talent is undeniable, but injuries may destroy his playing career.


"Basically, they told him it would be better if the bone was broken all the way," said agent Ron Slavin. "So one of the things suggested was that he do some hard running, hoping to break the bone. Instead, with all the running he did, the area around the bone got stronger. Ironically, it didn't make his lower back any stronger, at least in terms that would allow him to play. So now he's got to build up the back before he can return to the league, and we just don't know how long that will take."


Surgery is out of the question, Slavin acknowledged, because it definitely would finish Peterson's once promising career. And so the best guess, even as personnel directors from around the league phone Slavin to inquire about the condition of his suddenly free-agent client, is that Peterson will spend a year trying to rehabilitate his back, and then hopefully return to the NFL in 2007.


It is far too early in the rehabilitation process to know if Peterson's possible comeback is a long shot or perhaps no shot at all.


But consider this: The former Western Illinois star will be only 28 years old this time next year, not exactly a youngster anymore, but still an age at which most cornerbacks haven't yet headed down the most slippery side of the coverage hill. He will be coming off a full year of rest, with some rust, no doubt, but minus the rigors of an NFL season. And in the NFL, everyone is always looking for cornerbacks, a premium position.


On the flip side, a year from now, Peterson will have gone 21 months without having lined up in an NFL game. In fact, at that point, Peterson will have appeared in just 23 games in four years. Even those curious teams perhaps intrigued by getting a steal in Peterson aren't going to ante up anything close to the $12.06 million in base salaries that was left on his contract when the Giants released him.


Peterson, though, was on his way to becoming an elite cornerback in the league when his back problems stopped his advance. When it comes to cornerbacks, league personnel chiefs have elephantine memories. You can bet that, during Peterson's rehabilitation, teams will continue to monitor him. If he demonstrates any evidence at all of having moved beyond his back woes and returning to his previous form as a solid, physical cornerback, teams will be interested in getting a closer look at him next spring.

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I hope the best for his revovery and pray he can one day return to the NFL. That's a wierd injury, try to strengthen it but it gets worse t he mor you do :confused: Good luck Will! :rock::flex:

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