Lots of big NFL names hoping for big comebacks

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Lots of big NFL names hoping for big comebacks
LANDOVER, MD - DECEMBER 01: Robert Griffin III #10 of the Washington Redskins sits on the ground after a play against the New York Giants during their game at FedExField on December 1, 2013 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
LANDOVER, MD - DECEMBER 08: Quarterback Robert Griffin III #10 of the Washington Redskins throws a first quarter pass against the Kansas City Chiefs at FedExField on December 8, 2013 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 8: Rob Gronkowski #87 of the New England Patriots leaves the field after an injury against the Cleveland Browns at Gillette Stadium on December 8, 2013 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 01: Rob Gronkowski #87 of the New England Patriots shakes off a tackle by D.J. Swearinger #36 of the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium on December 1, 2013 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WA - JANUARY 11: Wide receiver Percy Harvin #11 of the Seattle Seahawks is on the field after free safety Rafael Bush #25 of the New Orleans Saints was called for an unnneccesary roughness penalty in the first quarter during the NFC Divisional Playoff Game at CenturyLink Field on January 11, 2014 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - FEBRUARY 02: Wide receiver Percy Harvin #11 of the Seattle Seahawks runs with the ball over strong safety Duke Ihenacho #33 of the Denver Broncos during Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium on February 2, 2014 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 17: Wide receiver Julio Jones #11 of the Atlanta Falcons drops a pass in the end zone against the Denver Broncos during a game at the Georgia Dome on September 17, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 09: Julio Jones #11 of the Atlanta Falcons scores a touchdown against Haruki Nakamura #43 of the Carolina Panthers during play at Bank of America Stadium on December 9, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Carolina defeated Atlanta, 30-20. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - OCTOBER 20: CHARLOTTE, NC - OCTOBER Sam Bradford #8 of the St. Louis Rams is carted off the field after he is injured after being knocked out of bounds by Mike Mitchell #21 of the Carolina Panthers during their game at Bank of America Stadium on October 20, 2013 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 13: Sam Bradford #8 of the St. Louis Rams celebrates a second quarter touchdown pass against the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium on October 13, 2013 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 13: Arian Foster #23 of the Houston Texans stretches for a first down against Aqib Talib #31 of the New England Patriots during the 2013 AFC Divisional Playoffs game at Gillette Stadium on January 13, 2013 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 29: Arian Foster #23 of the Houston Texans avoids a tackle by Kam Chancellor #31 of the Seattle Seahawks in the fourth quarter at Reliant Stadium on September 29, 2013 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 8: Running back Doug Martin #22 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is up ended by safety Dawan Landry #26 of the New York Jets in the fourth quarter during a game at MetLife Stadium on September 8, 2013 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Jets defeated the Bucs 18-17. (Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images)
TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 15: Running back Doug Martin #22 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers runs for a gain in the 4th quarter against the New Orleans Saints September 15, 2013 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 02: Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin #18 of the Philadelphia Eagles looses control of the ball after being hit by linebacker NaVorro Bowman (53) during an NFL football game at Lincoln Financial Field on October 2, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The 49ers defeated the Eagles 24-23. (Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images)
ATLANTA - DECEMBER 06: Jeremy Maclin #18 of the Philadelphia Eagles against Michael Koenen #9 of the Atlanta Falcons at Georgia Dome on December 6, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 19: Reggie Wayne #87 of the Indianapolis Colts is tackled by Chris Carter #54 of the Pittsburgh Steelers during the game on August 19, 2012 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 23: Wide receiver Reggie Wayne #87 of the Indianapolis Colts breaks away form defensive back Brandon Flowers #24 of the Kansas City Chiefs during the first half on December 23, 2012 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. Indianapolis defeated Kansas City 20-13. (Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 10: Malcom Floyd #80 of the San Diego Chargers is tackled by Michael Huff #24 of the Oakland Raiders at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on October 10, 2010 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CA - NOVEMBER 25: Malcom Floyd #80 of the San Diego Chargers celebrates his touchdown for a 7-0 lead with a dunk of the upright in front of Bernard Pollard #31 of the Baltimore Ravens at Qualcomm Stadium on November 25, 2012 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
HOUSTON - NOVEMBER 07: Brian Cushing #56 of the Houston Texans walks off the field after the Houston Texans were defeated by the San Diego Chargers 29-23 at Reliant Stadium on November 7, 2010 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 29: Brian Cushing #56 of the Houston Texans causes Marshawn Lynch #24 of the Seattle Seahawks to fumble in the first half at Reliant Stadium on September 29, 2013 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 08: Geno Atkins #97 of the Cincinnati Bengals leaves the field after warm-ups before a game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on September 8, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - OCTOBER 6: Geno Atkins #97 of the Cincinnati Bengals sacks quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots in the first quarter at Paul Brown Stadium on October 6, 2013 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
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By DENNIS WASZAK JR.

NEW YORK (AP) -- Broken bones. Torn ligaments. Subpar performances.

They all combined to sideline some of the NFL's biggest stars a year ago, a lost season for several players who spent most of the year in the trainers' room.

Rob Gronkowski, Percy Harvin, Julio Jones, Robert Griffin III and Sam Bradford know all about that. So do guys such as Arian Foster, Doug Martin, Jeremy Maclin, Reggie Wayne, Malcom Floyd, Brian Cushing and Geno Atkins.

"I was rehabbing every day and it was miserable," said Gronkowski, the New England tight end who is still working his way back from a vicious two-year stretch in which he has had four forearm surgeries, a back injury and torn knee ligaments.

"Hopefully that never happens again," Gronkowski added. "And I don't wish anything on anyone like I had these past few years."

Harvin got a jumpstart on his comeback in February on the NFL's biggest stage. After missing most of the regular season and the playoffs with a surgically repaired hip and then a concussion, Harvin returned the opening kickoff of the second half of the Super Bowl for a touchdown in helping Seattle beat Denver.

"I don't know if any football player can say they're fully healthy playing football, but this is the best I've felt in a long, long time," Harvin said as the Seahawks opened training camp.

Philadelphia's Maclin tore a knee ligament in training camp last year and missed the entire season. But after an extensive rehabilitation process, the Eagles are counting on their speedy wide receiver to make big plays again.

"He was out there every day in the offseason program and it's just a matter of him getting his timing back," Eagles coach Chip Kelly said.

Wayne was off to a terrific start last year with 38 catches for 503 yards in seven games for Indianapolis. A torn ACL kept him out the last half of the season. Even at 35, he says he is ready to rebound.

Jones also was on his way to another Pro Bowl season with 41 catches in five games for the Falcons, but a broken right foot sent him to the sideline. He had a special cleat designed for him by Under Armour, a wider shoe that features a steel shank at the bottom for added support.

"I feel explosive, I still feel fast," he said. "I still feel like I can beat one-on-one matchups."

San Diego's Floyd missed almost all of last season after spraining his neck after making a reception at Philadelphia last Sept. 15.

Foster, one of the NFL's top running backs when healthy, considered retirement after a back injury limited him to eight games for the Texans.

"People die on the football field," Foster told ESPN. "This is a really brutal sport. Going through an injury like that, being 27 years old, I'm young, still I'm at the prime of my career. Is it worth it to try to come back?"

Martin, one of the league's rising running backs, ran for 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns for Tampa Bay as a rookie in 2012. Last year, he struggled early, injured his shoulder and his sophomore season was done after just six games.

Another of the NFL's top rookies two years ago wasn't quite the same last season. After tearing his ACL in Washington's playoff loss, Griffin struggled a year ago to be the electrifying playmaker he was in his first season. With the Redskins out of the playoff hunt, then-coach Mike Shanahan ended Griffin's season and plugged in Kirk Cousins for the final three games.

"For me, personally, obviously, not having to come off of a knee surgery is a big boost for me," Griffin said, "having an opportunity to work on my craft during the offseason."

Philadelphia's Mark Sanchez could have a shot, too, after missing all last season with the Jets because of a shoulder injury - but he's Nick Foles' backup.

Griffin and St. Louis' Sam Bradford, who tore an ACL last season, might be front-runners for the AP Comeback Player of the Year award. Since it began in 1998, 11 of the winners have been quarterbacks - including the last six.

The award usually goes to a player who has overcome an injury, but San Diego's Philip Rivers bucked that trend last year when he won it for bouncing back from a season in which he didn't play up to par. There are a few quarterbacks other than Griffin who could fit that description this year: Baltimore's Joe Flacco, the Giants' Eli Manning, Oakland's Matt Schaub and the Jets' Michael Vick - already a previous winner - if he overtakes Geno Smith for the job.

A few defensive players could be in the running, too. Cincinnati's Atkins (torn ACL) and Leon Hall (torn Achilles tendon), Houston's Cushing (broken leg, torn ligament) and Denver's Demarcus Ware (career-low six sacks) are all contenders.

Then, there's also Ware's new Broncos teammate Von Miller, who was suspended six games for a drug violation and then lost after nine games with a torn ACL that caused him to miss Denver's Super Bowl run.

"I feel like I've been ready mentally back when the Super Bowl was here," Miller said. "But the competitor in me is definitely ready to go."

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