Fifth in a series previewing Texas Tech spring football practice, which is scheduled to begin Friday.
Arnold Gamber can’t answer one of the questions everyone from Texas Tech would like to know: When will several players who underwent knee surgeries at the end of the 2011 season be playing football again for the Red Raiders?
“It’s approximately a six-month rehab,” Gamber, Tech’s head football trainer, said last week. “I expect most of them to be back up and running by this summer. How quick they can mainstream in is too early to call.”
Tech’s top two rushers, running backs Eric Stephens and DeAndre Washington, starting receiver Alex Torres, starting cornerback Happiness Osunde and safety Chris Yeakey all underwent surgeries in late November or early December for knee-ligament tears.
Stephens’ repair was complicated by a knee dislocation. Neither Stephens nor Washington has redshirted, and offensive coordinator Neal Brown said last week that’s a Plan B option depending on how their recoveries go.
“We anticipate them all roughly to be back sometime in the course of the summer,” Gamber said. “You just don’t want to paint yourself into a corner, because I’ve had kids have everything going fine and for some reason get an inflammatory response or a setback in rehab. Maybe tear a meniscus — not intending to, but it happens because you’re being active — and have a follow-up surgery or something like that.
“Right now, they’re all on track, doing very good, but there’s nothing 100 percent guaranteed.”
The Tech players who underwent knee surgery went through “pre-habilitation” beforehand. Tech’s medical team did Stephens’ surgery, for example, six weeks after he got hurt in an October game against Texas A&M.
“What you do is work on getting all your range of motion and getting swelling out of the joint before you do the surgery,” Gamber said. “What that’s shown is a lot less stiff joint problems. You’re still going to be well, roughly with ACLs, six months out. It’s just a different approach to it.”
Gamber said Red Raiders players suffered at least 24 injuries of significant time loss last season — 18 that required surgery and six that didn’t but needed more than three or four weeks of rehabilitation.
Several of those players will be sidelined — or at least withheld from contact — when the team begins spring practice Friday. Terrance Bullitt, who is converting from safety to linebacker, and cornerback Shawn Corker are on the shelf from Nov. 29 shoulder surgeries. Safety Desmond Martin is questionable for the spring coming back from a lengthy knee rehab.
Linebacker Zach Winbush, who underwent surgery Nov. 22 for a broken foot, could be phased back into workouts over the next few weeks.
Some who rehabbed injuries that did not require surgery will be able to work out this spring. In that group, Gamber said, are flanker Darrin Moore (ankle, knee), inside receivers Aaron Fisher (knee) and Austin Zouzalik (concussion), outside linebacker Pete Robertson (shoulder) and defensive back Tre Porter (concussion).
Tech’s defensive staff plans to move Porter from cornerback back to safety this spring. Porter missed the last four games in 2011 after he flipped and landed on the back of his head while pursuing an Iowa State ball carrier.
“We’ll probably watch how much contact he goes through, be smart about it,” Gamber said.
Moore suffered knee and ankle injuries on the same play in Tech’s Sept. 24 game against Nevada. That turned out to be a big blow to the Red Raiders’ offense, rendering Moore out or ineffective for the next eight games.
“He’s returned back doing everything, doing well,” Gamber said.
Backup center Tony Morales, who underwent shoulder surgery in August, also can return to the fray during February and March practices.
“They’re all working hard, twice a day, five to six days a week,” Gamber said. They’re tired of looking at us, because they’re getting up here at 6:30 in the morning and working out, then getting back in the afternoon and doing what they can with (strength and conditioning) coach (Joe) Walker.”
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