Have at It: Two tremendous comebacks

E.J. Henderson, left, and Brian Urlacher have returned from injury to perform at a high level. Icon SMI/Getty Images

Tuesday's SportsNation chat was winding down when Madhu volunteered a savvy "Have at It" topic:

Madhu (South Windsor)

Urlacher or Henderson for Comeback Player of the Year?

Kevin Seifert (2:52 PM)

Ohhhh. I like that. Check back on the blog tomorrow.

So let's do this. Two of the NFC North's middle linebackers have returned from season-ending injuries to play at a high level and propel their teams to top-10 defensive rankings. A dislocated wrist cost the Chicago Bears' Brian Urlacher 15 games last season, while the Minnesota Vikings' E.J. Henderson suffered a fractured femur last December.

Both have returned at a high level in 2010. Urlacher leads the Bears' eighth-ranked defense with 51 tackles. Henderson, meanwhile, has 51 tackles for the Vikings' fifth-ranked defense. He also set up 10 points in Sunday's 24-21 victory over the Dallas Cowboys with a pair of interceptions.

As you consider this question, it's fair to take into account any number of factors. Among them:

  • The most obvious is each player's performance this season, which I've sketched in the chart accompanying this post.

  • That performance relative to each player's career curve. You could make an argument that Urlacher is playing his best football in several years.

  • The severity of the injury. It should be pointed out that Henderson is playing with a titanium rod in his leg and was originally projected to need up to a year of recovery time.

  • Each player's value relative to his team's depth chart. Where would the Bears be without Urlacher? Do the Vikings have anyone who could fill in for Henderson?

Hopefully we can make it through this debate without diminishing either player's accomplishments. As always, give me your thoughts in the comments section below. I'll publish a representative sample, along with my own take, by the end of the week. Have at It.