Brandon Jacobs had surgery on his left knee Wednesday as doctors performed a cartilage graft to repair osteoarthritis in the joint. If that doesn't sound like something a 31-year-old running back can bounce back from, well, it isn't. And it marks the third time in the last three years that Jacobs' season has ended at a career crossroads.
Jacobs has not made any decision about his future -- "There wasn't any indication of anything," coach Tom Coughlin said. "It was just the decision was made to go ahead and do this [surgery]" -- but he might not have much of a choice.
"If the damage is bad enough to need cartilage grafting, it's an ominous sign on Jacobs," said Dr. David Chao, a former team physician for the Chargers who now writes weekly articles on football injuries and medical techniques. "Not many NFL players have come back from that."
This departure from the Giants certainly does not rival Jacobs' last one.
In 2011, he helped the team win a Super Bowl, trotted around MetLife Stadium with the Lombardi Trophy so fans could have their hands brush against it, and essentially went out with a storybook ending. But it wasn't the ending.
After being released by the Giants that offseason, Jacobs signed with the 49ers but, because of a knee injury and conflicts with the coaching staff, barely played for them in 2012. When San Francisco released him late in the season, it seemed as if his days in the NFL had come to another end, this one far less ideal than the first.
But wait! There's more!
After pretty much accepting retirement and allowing his weight to reach 290 pounds, Jacobs trimmed down and was signed by the Giants in Week 2 of this season to help replace the injured Andre Brown.
He played well when he was able to get on the field. In Week 6, he ran for 106 yards and two touchdowns against the Bears. In Week 12, he ran for 75 yards against the Cowboys.
He had a 37-yard run in that game, but it was one in which he was pushed out of bounds at the 4 instead of attempting to run over Dallas safety Jeff Heath. The Giants had to settle for a field goal and lost the game by three points.
His last carry as a Giant -- most likely -- was a 1-yard run up the middle on first-and-goal from the 5 against the Cowboys, a play before Eli Manning hit Louis Murphy Jr. for a touchdown and Brown ran in a two-point conversion to tie the score at 21 in the fourth quarter. The Giants never got the ball back in that game, and Jacobs might never see it again either.
So for now, Jacobs' story ends (again) not with a victory lap around the stadium but with surgery -- Coughlin described him this week as "incapacitated" -- and what could wind up being the worst season of his career record-wise.
Even with all of that, Jacobs practiced a bit last week and made the trip to San Diego before he was ruled inactive on Sunday. He said his goal was to show Coughlin enough to get back on the field.
"The way he still came out there last week and showed how much he really loves this team and loves us as a running back unit, that showed his support," Brown said. "He was a great leader . . . It's sad that he couldn't finish the season out with us."
But he does get to finish his career as a Giant. And for Jacobs, that's probably all he wanted to accomplish this season anyway.