Lattimore plans to return better post injury

Lattimore plans to return better post injury
February 24, 2013, 8:00 am
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Marcus Lattimore’s college football career ended on Oct. 27, 2012.

That’s when Lattimore was sandwiched in between two University of Tennessee players. One tackled him high. One tackled him low. And in the process, the South Carolina running back suffered one of the most gruesome injuries in recent football history.

He laid there on the field in throbbing pain, his leg visibly mangled, until trainers ran to him. He was carted off the field and needed major reconstructive surgery to repair three ligaments in his right knee just a year after needing surgery on his left knee as a sophomore.

And now he’s back. Almost.

Lattimore is in Indianapolis this weekend for the NFL Combine. He won’t be able to compete in any of the drills – he’s not quite there yet – but did get checked out by team doctors (Dr. James Andrew accompanied him to Indy) and spoke to the media too. He said he understood why teams were so thorough while checking out his progress in recovery (he said the medical examinations lasted 3 ½ to 4 hours).

“Definitely, it's very tough,” Lattimore said, via a Combine transcript, about taking his recovery slowly. “You get frustrated. But you know it's the right thing for you, the right thing for your future. I have to think about long term. Rushing back may not be the right thing to do, but if I'm ready, I'm ready. Just like RG3 said – he won't put his career in jeopardy if he's not ready.”

Robert Griffin III was just one of many comparisons that were made on Saturday. Some others included Willis McGahee, Frank Gore and Jamaal Charles. All three had major knee surgeries and all three have had successful NFL careers.

McGahee’s injury is still engrained in the memories of many football fans’ minds. McGahee’s injury came in the 2003 National Championship Game. You remember that one, when his knee bent the wrong way on national television.

"As you know, he had a similar injury, pretty much the same kind of injury,” Lattimore said. “He's helped me a lot. Guys always bring that up when I come in there and talk to them. Willis came back from it, Frank Gore - bunch of guys. He's a guy that worked hard. That's what I'm going to do, and trust in God. I haven't talked to (McGahee) lately, but I've talked to him a bunch of times. He just tells me keep grindin'. Keep doing what you're doing. Trust in God, you're going to be fine, you'll come back from it."

One reporter brought up that McGahee changed his style after the injury, became more of a power back than a finesse runner. Lattimore said he won’t change his style – it’s the only way he knows how to play the game.

And although his last two football seasons have ended with him on the field in immense pain, he said he won’t be scared to take another hit.

"No, not at all,” he said. “I mean, I've been hit 2,000 times, and that (an injury) happened twice. I’m not even thinking about it."

The other obvious comparison to arise included Adrian Peterson. Peterson returned to the field just eight months after tearing the ACL and MCL in his knee. In 2013, Peterson was the NFL MVP and finished a few yards shy of breaking the NFL’s single season rushing record.

And Lattimore took notice.

"He's a different kind of person,” Lattimore said. “There'll never be another Adrian Peterson. That definitely gives me a lot of motivation, knowing that he came back from it the way he did, he came back better. And that's what I plan on doing, just coming back better. Seeing him do what he did this year, I think about that all the time."

It’s unclear where Lattimore will go in the draft. The progress of his knee recovery will go a long way but a team still has to take somewhat of a risk to draft him.

NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said in a conference call last week that he thinks Lattimore will be selected somewhere in the third round and would have been taken late in the first or early in the second if he was healthy.

And Lattimore doesn’t much care when he gets taken.

“At this point, it really doesn't matter where I get drafted,” he said, “because I'm going to go in there and work hard, I'm going to do what I do, I'm going to do what I've been doing my whole career, and that's just being myself. If I get a chance to play this year, I'm going to make the most out of it. And I feel like I will."

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