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Comeback Player of the Year criteria will emphasize overcoming injury or illness

The Associated Press is clarifying the criteria for the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award, to emphasize that the winner should be a player who overcame injury or illness, and not just a player who followed a bad year with a good year.

“The spirit of the AP Comeback Player of the Year Award is to honor a player who has demonstrated resilience in the face of adversity by overcoming illness, physical injury or other circumstances that led him to miss playing time the previous season,” voters for the award will be told as their guidance for voting on the award, according to AP senior NFL writer Rob Maaddi, who oversees All-Pro and NFL awards voting.

Maaddi sought the input of some of the AP voters, including PFT’s Mike Florio and Charean Williams, before finalizing the new guidance for the award.

Changing the criteria of the award began to gain momentum after Geno Smith won Comeback Player of the Year in 2022. Smith played well that year after having been mostly a backup the year before, but he wasn’t overcoming an illness or injury. The same could be said of Joe Flacco, who won the award in 2023 but again was coming back only from a career decline.

For the 2024 season, the new guidance would seem to help the chances of Aaron Rodgers, Joe Burrow, Kirk Cousins, Anthony Richardson or Nick Chubb to win the award after their injuries last year. Russell Wilson, who was benched in Denver last year and is now the projected starter in Pittsburgh, seems less likely to have a chance at Comeback Player of the Year under the new guidance.

We’ll find out at the 2025 NFL Honors, when Comeback Player of the Year and other NFL awards are announced, the week before the Super Bowl.