A.J. Edds understands perhaps better than anyone that the NFL is a business.
A Darwinian vocation in the purest sense, only the fittest of the fit survive in what is arguably the most hypercompetitive, physically punishing environment imaginable. To do so requires two qualities in mass quantities — health and skill.
Edds, a former star at Greenwood Community High School, has always been blessed with the latter but not so much with the former.
Yet four years after entering the league, Edds — whose career has twice been interrupted by devastating knee injuries — is still surviving in the NFL. Barely, but surviving, nonetheless.
In light of circumstances, that’s no small miracle.
After all, Edds is 26. He entered the NFL in 2010 but has played only one season in the past four. He’s suffered ACL tears in both knees. He hasn’t been on an active roster since 2012. He hasn’t appeared in a game since 2011.
But here he is, in 2014, with another lease on NFL life — a powerful testimony to the extraordinary courage, resilience and determination of one of the finest athletes Johnson County has ever produced.
Despite sitting out the past two seasons, Edds never contemplated walking away. Instead, the 6-foot-4, 256-pound linebacker did everything he possibly could to get one more shot at making a 53-man roster.
Opportunity came last month when he was invited for a tryout at the New York Jets rookie camp. One of 37 non-contract players at the audition, Edds was one of only two invited back at the end of it.
He and veteran tackle Markus Zusevics received contracts and will be among 90 players at next month’s training camp vying for an active roster spot.
Edds knows there are no guarantees. But he also knows how to seize a moment, which is why — if he stays healthy — it would not be a surprise if he finds a home in New York.
Because when healthy, Edds not only can play but play exceptionally well.
There is a reason the Miami Dolphins traded up seven spots to select Edds in the fourth round of the 2010 draft. There’s a reason he’s had two stints with the New England Patriots. There’s a reason why he played in nine games for the Indianapolis Colts in 2011 — and likely would have seen a larger role in 2012 had fate not dealt a crushing blow before 2012 even began.
On the first day of training camp, Edds tore his left ACL and missed the entire season. The occasion marked the second time in his career that an ACL tear wrecked his season before it began.
In 2010, on the fourth day of training camp with the Dolphins, he tore his right ACL and missed his rookie year.
For many players, fourth-round picks in particular, sitting out a rookie season could be career-ending — at the very least, career-threatening.
But Edds survived.
He rehabbed, bounced between Miami and New England, then found a home in Indianapolis.
Then came ACL tear No. 2, which, in most cases, particularly for a journeyman, would end a career.
But Edds survived.
He rehabbed, waited patiently by the phone for two years, then maximized the opportunity when the call came.
As a result, he has a third lease on NFL life. Not because he’s lucky, but because he made it happen.
And now, the business aspect kicks in. All Edds has is a contract to try to make the team. Beyond that, there are no guarantees.
Of course, no one understands that better than he does. He’s been down this road before, both as a wayfarer and a successful navigator.
Here’s hoping Edds, one of the finest athletes in Johnson County’s proud history, finds his way back again.
Never underestimate the will of a survivor.
Rick Morwick is the sports editor of the Daily Journal. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.