The NFL preseason is a formal preparation period for each upcoming season. It features exhibition games, training camps, and team practices. These allow players to learn the playbook and work on team chemistry while warming up for the regular season.
The NFL regular season is short, so every game is important, making it crucial to be prepared right out of the gate in Week 1.
While the preseason is useful in preparing for the regular season, it also presents a further risk of injury. The NFL is violent, so playing more football sometimes means an increased number of injuries.
Teams hope that none of their players get hurt during the preseason, but it seems to happen every year. Here are five serious preseason injuries that changed the course of a player's career.
#5 - Trent Green
Trent Green signed a contract with the St. Louis Rams prior to the start of the 1999 NFL season to be their starting quarterback. Disaster struck when he suffered a season-ending knee injury during a preseason game and most thought the Rams' season was essentially over.
The then-unknown now-legendary Kurt Warner replaced Green, and the rest, as they say, is history. Warner would go on to win two NFL MVP awards and a Super Bowl ring on his way to the Hall of Fame. Green would sign with the Chiefs two years later, where he had a mediocre career, posting a 48-40 record.
#4 - Teddy Bridgewater
Teddy Bridgewater put together a solid rookie year for the Minnesota Vikings during the 2014 NFL season. He then improved even further during his second season, being selected to the Pro Bowl while helping the Vikings make the playoffs.
Bridgewater appeared to be well on his way to becoming a great quarterback, but he suffered a devastating knee injury prior to the start of the 2016 season. He missed the entire year and has never really been the same since as his upward trajectory was halted.
He's recorded just a 16-19 career record since then and has never reached another Pro Bowl.
#3 - Tony Romo
Tony Romo is one of the greatest quarterbacks in Dallas Cowboys history. In nine seasons as the starting quarterback, he was selected to four Pro Bowls and eclipsed 4,000 passing yards five times. He finished in third place in the NFL MVP voting for the 2014 season before an injury ended his 2015 season early.
Romo recovered from the injury and was looking forward to another year prior to the 2016 season before a back injury during the preseason knocked him out once again.
Rookie Dak Prescott took over as the starting quarterback and never looked back, leading the Cowboys to the playoffs after a 13-3 season. When Romo was healthy, Dak Prescott kept the job, and Romo decided to retire a little early.
#2 - Chris Spielman
Chris Spielman was once one of the best linebackers in the NFL. During his first seven seasons with the Detroit Lions, he was selected to four Pro Bowls and chosen for three All-Pro teams.
He remained healthy during his first nine seasons in the league, missing only four total games in nearly a decade.
Disaster struck for Spielman prior to the start of the 1997 NFL season, his 10th in the league. He suffered a frightening neck injury following a helmet-to-helmet hit during a preseason game that left him paralyzed on the field for several minutes.
He incredibly walked off under his own power and returned to the field later that season, but it would be his final year after learning he would require spinal surgery.
#1 - Darryl Stingley
Darryl Stingley tragically suffered one of the worst injuries in NFL history. His career as a wide receiver was on the rise with the New England Patriots, until a brutal hit immediately ended his career and changed his entire life.
During a preseason game against the Oakland Raiders prior to the 1978 NFL season, Stingley took a vicious hit from Jack Tatum while running a route across the middle of the field.
He lived the rest of his life as a quadriplegic, being paralyzed in all four limbs. The hit was legal at the time, but served as a catalyst for rule changes focused on player safety.