Returning NFL Stars and How They Performed – WSB 95.5
Sometimes the abdicating, or deposed, king returns to his kingdom.
It happens quite often in the NFL, but rarely is it as newsworthy as Tom Brady, who led the Patriots to six Super Bowl titles, coming back to New England. He will do so on Sunday night, eight months after leading the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the top.
The reception at Gillette Stadium will likely be overwhelmingly pro-Brady – until the teams kick off. Then when he does something positive for the Bucs and damage to the Patriots, well, does anyone expect a lot of cheering for the 44-year-old quarterback?
Here’s a look at six members of the Professional Football Hall of Fame and how things turned out when they returned to where they became a star.
After five straight wins to open the season with his new team, the Broncos, Manning was on his way to his fifth MVP record while setting all kinds of passing scores in the league. The game against the Colts in Indianapolis was hailed as the second coming, but despite Manning’s brilliance – three touchdowns, 386 yards in the air – his replacement, Andrew Luck, took the victory 39-33.
“I’m kind of relieved that this game is over,” he said at the end of a long night.
But the reception from the Lucas Stadium crowd at least eased Manning’s pain a little: a standing ovation through a 90-second reel of Manning’s career in Indianapolis. He recognized the cheers as he stood along the visitors’ sideline, removing his helmet and turning to face several sections, grinning sheepishly and saluting on occasion.
League MVP and Super Bowl winner with the Raiders, Allen left in 1993 when team owner Al Davis insisted he be a replacement in a nasty feud with the player. Allen landed in Kansas City (Joe Montana had already arrived from the 49ers) and despite a poor performance he helped the Chiefs win Game 4 at home.
Five weeks later, the division’s rivals met at the LA Coliseum.
“I feel like I’m coming home, even though I’m on the visiting team,” Allen said.
He rushed for 85 yards and a scorecard securing the sweep of his former team, enough for Kansas City to finish atop the AFC West in a game against Los Angeles.
“I think he (Davis) tried to ruin the latter part of my career, tried to devalue me,” Allen said after his retirement. “He was trying to stop me from going to the Hall of Fame.”
It hasn’t gone well at all for the career leader who played his first 13 seasons in Dallas and won three Super Bowls. He went to Arizona in 2003 and broke his shoulder blade at the Cowboys in Game 5. He made six runs for under-1 yard, a pair of receptions for 2 yards.
The day started off in a festive way. In front of thousands of fans clad in blue No.22 jerseys and dozens of welcome signs – one of them read “Once a cowboy, always a cowboy” – he was applauded from the moment he stepped onto the field, sharing a brief hug with Cowboys owner Jerry. Jones. Smith took part in the toss, then came back to the bench stunned for winning it. Cameras clicked as he swapped a cap for his helmet, pulled up his red socks, looked around proudly and sat up to watch the opening kickoff.
When White returned to Philadelphia in 1994, a 13-7 loss to the Packers in Week 3, it was an emotionally intense experience for the excellent defensive end. He had little impact, making 2 1/2 tackles without getting a sack.
“It’s hard to play against your friends,” White said.
Not exactly friends that day: Whites were on a double team and sometimes even had to deal with three blockers.
Barely a day of celebration. Then again, the Eagles’ heart of defense was gone for Green Bay as a free agent, and the Philly fans aren’t very, uh, forgiving.
The Pro Bowl seven-time safety in 13 seasons in Philadelphia returned as the Bronco in 2009. He didn’t show up for the pre-game warm-ups, then received a rousing standing ovation when presented. Dawkins went through his familiar routine, doing a back flip, rolling in an inverted handstand before sprinting down the line and nearly knocking out a cameraman.
He hugged his former teammates after the game and gave fans kisses as he fled the pitch after a 30-27 loss.
“It’s just real, really scary,” Dawkins said. “I’ve been in a lot of big games before. I was just trying to control my emotions. It was really difficult for this game, mainly because we needed this game so much. “
Sanders has had a few ‘hero comeback’ moments. Most notable was in 1994 as a 49er – they would win the championship – in Atlanta, where Prime Time stood out for five seasons. It was not an example of welcoming with open arms.
It was bad enough for home fans that the Niners routed the Falcons 42-3. Sanders, still the showman, contributed to a capped 93-yard intercept return touchdown by going through the final 40 yards or so, followed by something nearing an arc to the Atlanta bench.
Previously, he had been booed so loudly that the Georgia Dome seemed to vibrate. Then he ran into trouble with Falcons wide receiver Andre Rison, drawing further disapproval from the crowd.
Prime Time’s response?
“It’s my house.”
It was that day
AP Pro Football writers Arnie Stapleton, Dave Campbell, Josh Dubow and Rob Maaddi and AP columnist Jim Litke contributed.
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