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Road to Recovery: How Avonte Maddox worked his way back for the playoffs

Avonte Maddox is the Eagles' recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award.
Avonte Maddox is the Eagles' recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award.

"When I was able to run out of that tunnel again, it was the best feeling in the world."

Eagles cornerback Avonte Maddox never thought that opportunity would present itself just four months ago.

Maddox suffered a torn pectoral muscle on September 14, 2023 during the Eagles' Week 2 win over the Minnesota Vikings.

In the second quarter of the game, Maddox tackled Vikings running back Alexander Mattison out of bounds. He immediately felt something that he described as a "stretch." An MRI revealed a torn pec, an injury that Maddox was told would take five to six months to recover from, basically ending his season.

"When they told me I needed surgery, I'm not going to lie, I busted out crying," a chuckling Maddox said. "I love the game, I love to play, and what I went through last year, it was tough for me."

On December 24, 2022, Maddox suffered a significant toe injury in the team's Week 16 game against the Cowboys and was forced to get surgery. He returned for last year's NFC Championship Game and Super Bowl LVII.

Maddox was flying around during the brief time before his injury this season, forcing a fumble just seven plays before he left the game.

Once reality set in for Maddox, his road to recovery began.

"It was tough mentally," Maddox said. "That's been the biggest thing, coming off two injuries and surgeries in one year. Everything happens for a reason."

After his injury, Maddox spent a lot of time in the training room and at home on his couch, which he noted was the toughest mental hurdle.

Maddox credited the training staff and his teammates for keeping him encouraged and entertained during the trying times.

"We spent a lot of time outside the building talking about mental health," Dallas Goedert said. "Connecting in that way where the pain of what happens in the building and in football can go away and we can just be friends which hopefully lightened the mood a little bit."

Goedert, Maddox's best friend on the team and former roommate, suffered a fractured forearm in Week 9 that sidelined him for three games. The pair was able to rehab and train together which made the process faster and easier for them both.

In the training room, it was Senior Athletic Trainer Jerome Reid who was Maddox's biggest supporter.

Reid and Maddox have done a lot of rehab work together in the past. Reid also helped with the cornerback's mental health by always cracking jokes and making the treatment engaging and entertaining.

"Working with Jerome is the fun part," Maddox said. "He has been a great figure in my life as a person and athletic trainer. He has definitely gotten me back faster from both injuries than I ever thought I could."

During the first few months of his rehab, Maddox was set on his season being over.

It was the 27-year-old's daily approach that opened the window for an early return.

"I didn't think I would be back at first," Maddox said. "I made sure to attack my treatment every single day, so I could get ready to perform again on the field."

Halfway through the regular season, when Maddox started to lift weights again, he realized he had a legitimate shot at making a comeback this season.

It was right around that time when Maddox returned to watching practice and being on the sideline for games.

"That was a good part about my mental health, being able to be on the sideline to watch the games," Maddox said. "At some point, you feel like you're not a part of the team because when you're injured you aren't around the team as much. When I got the opportunity to come back to practice and be around the facility, that helped me out a lot."

Once the realization set in that he could return this season, Maddox ramped up his rehab and training.

The key to getting back on the field was regaining and building strength in his left arm.

"I started noticing that which gave me the hope that I could come back before the season was over, so that was very promising," Maddox said.

When the Eagles' opened Maddox's 21-day practice window, designating him for a return from the Injured Reserve list, everyone knew that his comeback was almost complete.

It wasn't just Maddox who was excited for his return, his teammates were feeding off the energy he brought to practice.

"We are excited to get Avonte back on the field, I know he is excited," Brandon Graham said.

"I play physical, tough, and energetic," Maddox said. "I just put it all out on the field and I show it through my hustle and respect for the game. Having someone like that is contagious, you want to feed off them."

The road to recovery was complete when Maddox suited up against the Arizona Cardinals, returning for the final home game of the regular season on December 31, 2023.

Avonte Maddox and Dallas Goedert
Avonte Maddox and Dallas Goedert

Now, he has the chance to make a major impact on the Eagles' defense as the playoffs get underway.

"A credit to him with the work that he put in finding his way back to the field," Goedert said. "His recovery time went down quite a bit than what it was supposed to be. I'm excited for him to be back and happy he can come in and impact the defense."

Because of the courage and determination Maddox showed while he battled two major injuries in a year, he was named by his teammates as the Eagles' recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award.

The Ed Block Foundation honors one player from each NFL team who is voted by their peers for their courage and inspiration with the Ed Block Courage Award. The recipients stand as role models for their ability to overcome adversity while also serving their respective communities. Each honoree is invited to attend a dinner and ceremony in the spring in Baltimore to learn more about the foundation and what the honor means, and it is an emotional evening given its long history and deep meaning in the NFL community.

"I couldn't have come back without (my teammates)," Maddox said. "This locker room made sure I felt that I was included in everything. It takes a lot to come back from an injury, especially when you have surgery and you're going to be out for a while. They have other things to worry about, but yet, they cared about me and kept my spirits up and I appreciate that so much."

Avonte Maddox
Avonte Maddox

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