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Cleveland Browns quarterback Joe Flacco narrowly beat out Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin for the Associated Press’ Comeback Player of the Year award on Thursday.
On Monday, NBC Sports’ Peter King called that result “absurd” in the latest edition of his Football Morning in America column.
“It’s funny that Joe Flacco, who came back from sitting on his couch for two and a half months, won Comeback Player over Damar Hamlin, who came back from reliving a football field in January. What is stronger than laughter? Absurd? Okay. It was absurd.”
Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest during a Bills at Cincinnati Bengals game on January 2, 2023 and nearly died. Remarkably, he returned to the field in 2023 for seven appearances (including the playoffs). While he’s largely inactive and plays little when he’s dressed (mostly on special teams), the fact that he’s even on the outside has a remarkable return of its own.
Flacco has scripted a great comeback in his own right. The 16-year NFL veteran, who hasn’t been a team’s full-time starter for a full season since 2017, was at home for most of the year until the Browns added him to the practice squad in Nov. 20 with a combination of injuries and ineffectiveness affecting the team at the position.
Flacco took over the QB1 spot in December, however, and led the team to a 4-1 record in his regular season debut. During that span, he threw 13 touchdowns and 323.2 yards per game. Thanks to his efforts, the Browns made the playoffs for the third time this century.
One can make a case for either player, and it’s clear that voters are very divided on the matter. According to Rob Maaddi of the Associated Press, Hamlin actually got the most first-place votes (21), but Flacco got the most points, mainly because he got more than half (26) of those available. second place votes.
Most puzzling, however, was that eight voters left Hamlin out of their top three, to which King said: “I don’t understand at all.”
Maybe that has something to do with Hamlin being a part-time special teams player this year, but also ignores the tough journey he’s been on just to get to this point.
Regardless, Flacco is the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year, and Hamlin is the runner-up. Both have made remarkable comebacks this season, albeit in very different fashions.
Credit also goes to third-place winner Baker Mayfield, the former No. 1 overall pick from a castoff in 2022 after his release from the Carolina Panthers to a superstar in 2023 leading the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the NFC South title thanks. to 28 touchdown passes.