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The Tampa Bay star, who is recovering from a similar ACL injury, told the fifth-year senior to not overdo it with his rehab.
The Roanoke Times | File December
Hokies cornerback Antone Exum tore his ACL playing pickup basketball in January. Virginia Tech defensive backs coach Torrian Gray said Monday that Exum has been cleared to play.
Saturday, July 13, 2013
BLACKSBURG — While running hills as part of his rehab program at the Fischer Sports physical therapy center in Phoenix this offseason, Virginia Tech cornerback Antone Exum got some good advice from a fellow defensive back on the mend from a similar ACL injury — Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Darrelle Revis.
“He told me to take my time,” Exum said. “Don’t overdo it. Just take your time and come back when you’re 100 percent and when you’re ready to perform like you want to.”
Whether that takes place between now and the Hokies’ season opener against Alabama in the Georgia Dome on Aug. 31 remains to be seen.
It has been the fifth-year senior’s goal to return in time for that marquee game since he underwent surgery in early February to repair the ACL, lateral and medial meniscus and a bone fracture in his right knee after a pickup basketball game mishap.
He’s just toned down the rhetoric after getting a better understanding that a late-August return to action would be on the quick end of his recovery timetable.
“I haven’t changed that I want to be back for that game,” Exum said while attending the Hokies’ one-day prospect camp Saturday. “They haven’t ruled it out of the question or anything, so that’s what I’m working hard for. … I can’t make any guarantees, but that’s what I’m working for.”
That’s not to say his rehab hasn’t gone well. From all indications, he’s progressed nicely. Before leaving Arizona, where he stayed with former Hokies and current Arizona Cardinals running back Ryan Williams and worked at a facility that caters to players with his type of injury, they ran strength, power and deceleration tests that put his rehab progress at about 65 percent.
Virginia Tech trainer Mike Goforth said not to read too much into that figure, but he thinks Exum is further along that he expected him to be.
Exum ran on grass for the first time in Arizona and began some light agility work. Since returning to Blacksburg this month, he’s continued down that path, doing controlled cone work and some defensive back drills.
Exum ran all 16 of the team’s 110-yard sprints at the end of a recent workout with the offensive linemen. Goforth hopes to bump him up incrementally to the combo group, then the skill group if he makes it through without any problems.
For someone who made nighttime workouts commonplace prior to his injury, going at a certain pace has been an adjustment for Exum. But he’s sticking with the plan set out by trainer Brett Fischer and the Hokies’ training staff.
“There is merit in taking your time and resting,” Exum said. “Just being around a lot of pro athletes out there, sometimes you do need to give your body a rest.”
“As intense as he is,” Goforth said, “he’s also very smart enough to know what he can and cannot do.”
Exum has filled that time by spending more of it watching video from last year, trying to get the mental side of his game as sharp as it can be for when he’s physically back in form.
Still, all anyone wants to know is if he’ll be ready for the Alabama game. The answer seems to be: we’ll see.
An Aug. 5 evaluation by renowned orthopedist Dr. James Andrews, who performed the surgery, will give everyone a better idea of whether Exum has a realistic shot at returning in time for the opener.
Goforth remembers having instances at Tech where players came back quickly from ACL injuries. He thought running back Lee Suggs, who tore his ACL in the 2001 opener, probably could have returned for the bowl game that year if Tech wasn’t trying to get a season of his eligibility restored.
But being able to play and feeling normal are two different things.
“With all of our guys who have had it over the years, you really don’t feel like yourself for about another year,” Goforth said of ACL tears. “So we’ve just got to wait and see how he does.”
Note: Virginia Tech got a 2014 commitment from Athens, Ga., kicker Michael Santamaria late Friday night. The 5-foot-9, 160-pound Santamaria is ranked the No. 13 kicker nationally by Chris Sailer’s ratings.
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