To get a sense of how Virginia Tech linebacker Bruce Taylor is feeling these days, one only needs to ask him what his goals are for next season, when he’s a redshirt senior playing his final games in a Hokies uniform.
“Staying healthy, man,” Taylor said Wednesday night after watching another spring scrimmage from the sidelines.
Taylor is in the midst of missing his second straight spring practice as he rehabs the Lisfranc fracture he suffered in his right foot when Virginia Tech beat Boston College last October. On Thursday, however, Taylor underwent a second surgery to have one of the screws removed from that injured area in hopes of decreasing pain.
He’s still scheduled to be ready for fall training camp in August after leading the Hokies in tackles two seasons ago and finishing second last year despite missing the final six games of the 2011 campaign. But this extended rehab process has the Hokies starting middle linebacker convinced the foot injury will likely linger into the 2012 season.
“The biggest part of this injury is getting used to it. It’s gonna be sore for a good year before I feel good on it,” said Taylor, who missed most of last year’s spring practice after undergoing shoulder surgery. “I’ll definitely have to play through a little pain, but it’s all good.”
Taylor, who will not be involved in any drills the rest of spring practice because of this latest operation, has some company on the sidelines. Last year’s starting whip linebacker Jeron Gouveia-Winslow has been held out of full contact drills as he recovers from his own Lisfranc fracture and redshirt junior Tariq Edwards hasn’t been involved in spring practice at all after undergoing surgery for a stress fracture in his shin last month.
But even though Taylor and Gouveia-Winslow endured similar injuries in the same month – Gouveia-Winslow suffered his in a win over Miami on Oct. 8, two weeks before Taylor -- head trainer Mike Goforth said this week that has actually hindered Taylor’s recovery process.
It turns out Taylor’s Lisfranc fracture was much more severe than the one Gouveia-Winslow suffered and even involved a different kind of surgery. Goforth said Gouveia-Winslow probably could have been given full clearance for spring practice but that the training staff decided to exercise caution.
“Bruce maybe in the back of his mind always thought he was behind because they’d had the same injury, but one was worse than the other and had different surgery,” Goforth said. “I think it’s been tough on Bruce because he sees [Gouveia-Winslow] doing different things that he’s not able to do yet. He wonders, ‘Hey maybe my foot isn’t healing like it should.’ It’s tough to get young athletes like that to understand there is a difference even though it’s the same injury.”
The recovery process for both Gouveia-Winslow and Taylor has been a unique one because Lisfranc fractures involve the intrinsic muscles on the top of the foot. It means their offseason often times involved entire rehab sessions dedicated to picking up random objects like marbles, pen tops and pieces of paper with their toes to strengthen those tiny muscles.
Goforth thinks the Lisfranc fracture is one of the more complex injuries around because of the elaborate nature of that part of the foot.
“The more you learn about some of these things, the more you realize you don’t know as much to it,” he said. “There’s so much to it. It’s such an intricate joint.”
But Goforth has been comforted by Taylor’s progress since spring practice began more than two weeks ago. He believes Taylor’s latest surgery will ensure that the star linebacker will be “pain free and fully functional” come August.
The linebackers, though, aren’t the only ones making frequent visits to Goforth’s office this spring. Taylor and Gouveia-Winslow are part of a group of seven rising seniors expected to contribute next season coming back from a surgery right now. Joining them are wide receiver D.J. Coles (knee), offensive lineman Michael Via (knee), defensive tackle Antoine Hopkins (knee), wide receiver Dyrell Roberts (arm) and running back Tony Gregory (knee).
All are expected to be healthy in time for the regular season, and if spring practice were a month later, Goforth believes most could have participated fully in spring practice. “That’s the problem when you play into January.”
“I’ll be honest with you, this has been my worst offseason ever as far as worry,” he added. “We’ve never had a senior class this injury-laden going into the senior year. But over the past month, I’ve really been encouraged by what I’ve seen.”. . .
In other injury news, wide receiver Marcus Davis alarmed some fans when he tweeted that he “blew out” his hamstring after Wednesday’s scrimmage. But Goforth said the injury is just a pulled muscle and not very serious. Davis may be held out of Saturday’s open scrimmage, which is free and scheduled to begin at 10:45 a.m. at Lane Stadium, as a precaution.
Free safety Scott Rolin, meanwhile, underwent surgery Thursday to repair a torn ACL he suffered on the first day of spring practice. He will not be ready for fall training camp in August. Rolin’s younger brother, Matt, is a rising senior linebacker at Briar Wood High in Ashburn and one of the most highly sought after 2013 recruits from the Washington area.