Mixed results for injury-delayed debuts like Todd Gurley's

Schefter thinks it would be an upset if Gurley did not play vs. Steelers (1:32)

The NFL Insiders crew discuss what to expect from St. Louis Rams RB Todd Gurley if he makes his season debut against the Pittsburgh Steelers. (1:32)

St. Louis Rams rookie running back Todd Gurley could see his first NFL action Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Gurley was considered one of top players in this year's draft -- LaDainian Tomlinson called him the best running back prospect since Adrian Peterson -- and the Georgia product was snatched up the Rams at No. 10 despite having torn the ACL in his left knee in November.

After missing the preseason and the first two games of the regular season, Gurley said he's ready to play.

When Gurley does hit the field, either this week or in the near future, it will be one of the most anticipated debuts in any sport for a player starting late because he wasn't healthy.

Here are eight other high-profile athletes whose pro debut was delayed by injury, with a look at their initial performance and how they fared down the road.


Ki-Jana Carter, Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals traded up to make Carter the No. 1 overall pick in 1995 after the running back helped lead Penn State to an undefeated season. He signed a seven-year contract that included a $7.1 million bonus, an NFL rookie record at the time, but he tore his left ACL on his third carry of the preseason. His regular-season debut came a year late when he carried 14 times for 14 yards in the Bengals' 1996 opener. It didn't get much better from there. Injuries would plague Carter throughout a career that lasted until 2004. He gained more than 100 yards in a season only three times, with a high of 464 yards in 1997.

Willis McGahee, Buffalo Bills: The Bills used their 2003 first-round pick, No. 23 overall, on McGahee less than four months after the Miami running back tore two left knee ligaments, including the ACL, during the Fiesta Bowl. McGahee got off to a slow start when he finally hit the field in the 2004 season opener, carrying nine times for 31 yards. He hit his stride in Week 5 with the first of what would be seven 100-yard games that season. McGahee went on to play 10 NFL seasons for four teams and appeared in at least 10 games each year. He had four 1,000-yard seasons and was a two-time Pro Bowler.

Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants: Coming off a 1,000-yard season at LSU, Beckham was the 13th overall pick of a receiver-rich draft in 2014. Hamstring issues caused Beckham to miss the preseason and the first four games of the regular season. He made a modest debut in Week 5 with four catches for 44 yards and a touchdown, but he was nearly unstoppable once he adjusted to the NFL game. In just 12 games, he caught 91 passes for 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns, earning Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. His one-handed catch against the Cowboys is already a part of NFL lore.


Greg Oden, Portland Trail Blazers: Portland bypassed Kevin Durant to select the 7-foot Oden out of Ohio State with the first overall pick in 2007, a decision the Blazers would soon regret. Before his first training camp, Oden underwent an exploratory procedure on his right knee and ended up needing season-ending microfracture surgery. When he finally made his NBA debut in the 2008-09 season opener, Oden missed his first four shots before spraining his foot in the first quarter, causing him to miss two more weeks. Knee injuries would continue to plague Oden, who has appeared in only 105 NBA games and signed to play in China last month.

Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers: The No. 1 overall pick out of Oklahoma in 2009, Griffin fractured his kneecap during the Clippers' final preseason game that year. When rest didn't produce the desired results, he underwent surgery and missed the entire 2009-10 season. Unlike Oden before him, however, Griffin was worth the wait. He scored 20 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in the 2010 season opener, coincidentally against the Oden-less Blazers. Griffin has averaged 21.8 points and 9.7 rebounds in his career and is a big part of the Clippers' emergence.

Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia 76ers: Noel entered Kentucky as one the nation's top recruits, but he tore his left ACL during his freshman year. He went pro anyway, and New Orleans drafted him at No. 6 overall in 2013 and immediately dealt him to Philadelphia. Noel was expected to play by the middle of his first NBA season, but the rebuilding 76ers decided to hold him out all year. He debuted in the 2014-15 season opener with six points and 10 rebounds. That turned out to be about par for the course, as he finished the season averaging 9.9 points and 8.1 rebounds. The 76ers face a similar situation with Joel Embiid, whom the team drafted No. 3 overall in 2014. A broken foot wiped out Embiid's first season, and he's expected to miss the upcoming season as well.


Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins: Malkin was the No. 2 overall pick in 2004. After two years in the minors, big things were expected of him in 2006-07 as a 20-year-old rookie alongside second-year phenom Sidney Crosby. But Malkin hurt his shoulder in Pittsburgh's first preseason game and missed the first four regular-season contests. Once healthy, he was an instant sensation, scoring the Penguins' only goal in his debut, a 2-1 loss to the Devils. He finished his rookie season with 85 points in 78 games and won the Calder Trophy. He's a two-time scoring champion, was the playoff MVP during the Penguins' 2009 Stanley Cup championship run and was the 2012 league MVP.


David Beckham, LA Galaxy: Beckham was a worldwide superstar in 2007 when he signed a landmark deal with the Galaxy, the first use of the MLS designated player rule that allowed teams to go over the salary cap. He joined the Galaxy midseason after his Real Madrid commitment was over and played 16 minutes in a friendly against Chelsea on July 21 despite a nagging left ankle injury. His first league match was expected to be Aug. 5 at Toronto, but the ankle wasn't ready. His highly anticipated MLS debut came against DC United four days later in front of a sellout crowd at RFK Stadium. Beckham played the final 20 minutes of that contest and had little impact on the outcome of the Galaxy's 1-0 loss. Beckham appeared in only five games and didn't score a goal in his first MLS season. He stayed with the Galaxy through the 2012 season, helping them win two MLS Cups.