Athletes are forever coming back from one thing or another, whether injury, a poor season, personal loss or even -- as Michael Jordan, Mario Lemieux, Brett Favre and Sugar Ray Leonard -- from retirement.
Their success rate is mixed, not surprisingly. And if someone pulls it off, they sometimes put a name to it (Tommy John surgery, for example).
Pro football has a trio of current prominent players attempting comebacks of one sort or another. They involve quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger and Michael Vick and wide receiver Santonio Holmes, and their circumstances are different from each other.
The league suspended them, each was accused of a crime but only Vick was convicted and served time in jail. Roethlisberger was never charged with a crime. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Vick for two games to open the 2009 season after the former Atlanta Falcons star quarterback was convicted for dog fighting, among other things. He spent 21 months in jail and missed the 2007 and 2008 seasons. Goodell suspended Roethlisberger for the first four to six games of the 2010 season for some sleazy action in a Georgia bar that authorities deemed did not rise to criminal activity. Holmes, who has been accused and arrested several times on different charges, also has never been convicted, but violated the NFL drug policy and will serve a four-game suspension to start the season because of it.
How will these three players come back? So far, Vick has lost the most of the three. The Falcons cut him, he turns 30 this month and likely will not become the Eagles' starter even though they traded Donovan McNabb. He filed for bankruptcy and played little in his first season back.
Roethlisberger has a long journey ahead to win back the respect of Steelers fans, but still has that $103 million contract and is only 28. His recovery rests in his hands, not someone else's (although there remains the Nevada civil suit over an alleged sexual assault).
Holmes can carry on with a new team, the New York Jets, and at only 26, can salvage his NFL career.
Many athletes have returned successfully from disgrace, legal problems and drug addiction. Ernie Holmes overcame a 1973 incident in which he shot a police helicopter and a drug trial in Texas to help form Pittsburgh's "Steel Curtain" defense, earn two Super Bowl rings and continue his life without incident until his death in 2008.
Baltimore's Ray Lewis was arrested for murder in 2000, pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and has gone on to become the most beloved player in Ravens' history and a sure-fire Hall of Famer.
Others were not so successful, and I have first-hand knowledge of a few. I wrote a story many years ago after talking to quarterback Art Schlichter, who proclaimed to me that he had beaten his gambling addiction. The day the story came out, Schlichter was charged with passing a bad check to fuel his gambling addiction. I listened to Bengals fullback Stanley Wilson talk about how he overcame his drug addiction, five days before the 1989 Super Bowl in Miami. I wrote an uplifting story about Wilson. The night before the Super Bowl, they found Wilson in his hotel bathroom in a cocaine stupor.
The NFL landscape is littered with stories of successful redemption and those of relapses and failure. Vick, Roethlisberger and Holmes have chances to write their own accounts.