If there’s one truth about the NFL it’s that injuries are inevitable, and like many other teams, the New England Patriots have had their fair share of devastating ailments over the years.

Here’s a look at some of the most influential injuries the Patriots have faced in their history.

Darryl Stingley (1978)
We’ll start with an injury that had a much greater effect on the sport than just one Patriots season.

In a preseason game against the Oakland Raiders on Aug. 12, 1978, Stingley was hit by Raiders defensive back Jack Tatum while reaching for a pass. The hit, which many believe was dirty, broke two vertebrae and left the promising young receiver as a quadriplegic for the remainder of his life. Stingley, then just 26, had reportedly negotiated a contract extension that would have made him one of the highest-paid receivers in the NFL but was never able to sign it.

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The hit was not against NFL rules at the time, but influenced a change that gives receivers protection by disallowing defenders to launch themselves toward defenseless players. Stingley died in 2007 due to pneumonia complicated by quadriplegia.

Drew Bledsoe (2001)
We’d never claim an injury was a good thing, but there’s no denying that Drew Bledsoe’s scramble against the New York Jets in Week 2 of the 2001 season started the Patriots on the track to Super Bowl XXXVI.

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Bledsoe suffered a hemothorax that had him bleeding a pint of blood an hour, with doctors suspecting he could have died if his hospital visit was delayed any longer. The injury opened the door for a young upstart named Tom Brady to get some run, which he took and eventually won seven Super Bowls.

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Rodney Harrison (2005)
The Patriots’ first dynasty in the 2000s was led by their defense, with Harrison joining in 2003 and immediately winning a pair of Super Bowl titles.

He was perhaps the best safety in football over that span and was looking to win his third straight title before tearing his ACL, MCL and PCL against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 3. The Patriots went on to lose in the AFC divisional round.

Tom Brady (2008)
This one is simple. Brady is the greatest player of all time and got injured on the second drive of the season, knocking him out with a torn ACL and MCL. Matt Cassell, who hadn’t started a game since high school, eventually led that team to an 11-5 record. Can you imagine how far they could have gone with Brady?

While we’re on the subject, Brady is no stranger to playing through injuries. He got to Super Bowl LII with a jacked-up right thumb, played in the 2007 AFC Championship Game and Super Bowl XLII with a sprained ankle and played the entire 2003 season (in which New England won the Super Bowl) with an injured shoulder. Tough.

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Wes Welker (2009)
The Patriots were swiftly eliminated from the postseason in Brady’s first season back from that knee injury, but might not have had such a quick exit if not for Welker’s own knee injury.

The slot receiver tore his knee up in a meaningless Week 17 matchup with the Houston Texans, finishing the season with a career-high 123 receptions and 1,348 yards, but no ACL or MCL. He was replaced by Julian Edelman, who played well in a wild-card matchup with the Baltimore Ravens but wasn’t the player he’d eventually become.

Rob Gronkowski (2013)
We kind of had our pick with this one, but we’ll land on the season in which the Patriots had the best chance to win a Super Bowl.

The 2013 Patriots lost in the AFC Championship by two scores, missing the most dominant player in the world due to a torn ACL and MCL he suffered against the Cleveland Browns in Week 14.

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Julian Edelman (2017)
Edelman’s season ended before it even began in 2017, tearing his ACL in a preseason matchup with the Detroit Lions.

His absence influenced a ton of players to step up, with the Patriots eventually reaching Super Bowl LII without him. That was a game in which they lost on a last-second hail-mary attempt. If they had Brady’s top target, perhaps they could have outscored the Eagles.

James White and Jonathan Jones (2021)
The 2021 Patriots weren’t exactly “good” but they did make the postseason before getting their doors blown off. Could things have gone better with White and Jones? We think so.

Jones injured his shoulder and missed the latter half of the season, while White’s hip injury that season essentially ended his career. New England was left without a pair of veteran leaders due to the ailments, and lost by 30 points in the postseason. Yikes.

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Featured image via George Walker IV/Tennessean.com/USA TODAY Sports Images