The football program this season has one resonating desire - the need to avoid injuries. The reality of the game of football is there are going to be injuries. The reality that there are more possibilities of injuries in today's football simply because of the strength and the size of the players.
The injury bug is by and large cyclical amongst most football teams. Unlike the year of 2004, 2003 was comparably injury free. “Last year for me, was the most injury-riddled season I had ever been associated with," Coach Rich Brooks lamented. “The nature of it is kind of the luck of the draw.” There were several key players that were lost for all or part of the season. Tommy Cook suffered an ACL tear to the knee in the spring game last year. Aside from his ability to make plays, his leadership and toughness was sorely missed on the field.
Cook was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA. Then there’s Keenan Burton who suffered a broken bone in his wrist and thumb that was a slow healing injury. Consequently, the decision after the Louisville game was made to give him a medical redshirt to preserve a year of eligibility. Bo Smith was knocked out (no pun intended) of the season’s participation, after being struck in the head at a party in Oldham County with a baseball bat. He was released by the doctor’s, in January for full participation.
Rafael Little missed the early part of the season after having been scoped for loose meniscus in his knee. It was an old high school injury. It was obvious that he wasn’t himself until late in the season. Then there was Arlis Beach and Dicky Lyons Jr. with an assortment of injuries. Beach’s injury first thought to be a rotator cuff injury in the shoulder but once the doctors got in the shoulder they found it to be more extensive. He also had a labrium injury, too.
All of the aforementioned players have at one time played an intregal part of special teams. Football aficionados know that special teams are about a third of the total game of football. As the dynamic return specialist Derek Abney said, “I love to return kicks and punts because this gives me an opportunity to flip the field,” What he was saying, was he felt it very important to change field position. Lyons had a couple of long punt returns nullified by penalties.
In the U of L game, Burton looked to be brilliant having 3 kickoff return for a 29.3 average with a long of 44 yards. Little had 6 punt returns for 55 yards. Beach and Cook have at one time played a key and physical rolls of blocking on returns. So let the injury returnee’s once again be special.