By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Even after acquiring cornerback Jason McCourty on Thursday, the Patriots and Bill Belichick were not done searching for talent at the position. On Friday, according to multiple reports, the team hosted free-agent cornerback Delvin Breaux.
Breaux is 28 years old, but he’s played just two seasons — 22 games — in his NFL career. That’s because his injury history is perhaps the craziest record of any player in the NFL. And in a league like the NFL where injuries are the norm, that’s really saying something.
The injuries began long before Breaux was a professional. In high school, just after turning 17 years old, Breaux broke his neck. Specifically, he broke three vertebrae, and here’s a brief excerpt from a 2015 ESPN feature story on Breaux that shows the severity of the injury:
Breaux said the doctor who treated him said Breaux should have died on that high school field when he banged his head into another player while covering a kickoff for New Orleans’ McDonogh 35 Senior High School. In addition to the three broken vertebrae, Breaux also damaged a blood vessel in his neck.
Suffering such an injury would end most players’ football careers, but Breaux decided to try to continue. In 2008 he went to LSU, which honored his scholarship despite the injury, but he never received medical clearance to play. He never played a single down for the Tigers.
Breaux went and played for a team called the Louisiana Bayou Vipers, who played in something called the Gridiron Developmental Football League in 2012. The next year, he joined the New Orleans VooDoo of the Arena Football League.
He succeeded too, and his improbable football journey took a major step forward in 2013, when he signed with the Canadian Football League’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats. He spent two seasons in the CFL, making 61 tackles, defending 10 passes, forcing three fumbles, making a sack, and recording an interception — which he returned 27 yards for a touchdown.
After succeeding in the CFL, Breaux’s dream finally came true. He got the call from the New Orleans Saints. He was going to be an NFL player. And he was going to make the most of it.
In the 2015 season with the Saints, he played in all 16 games, making three interceptions, recovering a fumble, and recording 45 total tackles. He was named the Ed Block Courage Award winner for the Saints, as voted on by his teammates.
“The fact that my teammates voted for me to receive this honor in addition to their support and acceptance over the past year makes this even more significant,” Breaux said at the time. “I’m also very appreciative of the Saints for providing me with the opportunity last January to play in the National Football League finally and even better for my hometown team, which has made this journey even more satisfying.”
In his second NFL season, though, injuries struck again. In Week 1 against Oakland, Breaux suffered a broken fibula. That wasn’t a season-ending injury, and he returned two months later. But he’d be able to play just five games before suffering another injury, this time a shoulder ailment that ended his season. He played in just six games.
But he was not done. He showed up to training camp last summer looking to build on the success of that 2016 season. But again, injury. This time, with his leg bothering him, Saints trainers diagnosed him with a leg contusion. But he couldn’t return to the practice field, and the Saints reportedly grew so frustrated with the situation that they attempted to trade Breaux.
But as it turned out, Breaux wasn’t dealing with a leg contusion. He was dealing with a broken fibula. Again.
The Saints promptly fired two team orthopedists who misdiagnosed the injury, but Breaux still had himself a broken leg to deal with. He tried to return midseason, but the comeback effort was ended by the Saints in early November.
Still just 28 years old, Breaux figures to have some football left in him. Whether his body lets it happen or not is another story, but his history makes it pretty clear that nothing is going to stop him from trying.