When South Carolina Gamecocks running back Marcus Lattimore suffered a gruesome injury to his right knee against Tennessee on October 27, 2012, many experts thought the college star’s career could be over.
As the full extent of the injury was announced—torn ACL, LCL and PCL (h/t USA Today)—the outlook for the running back ever playing again continued to look bleak. Fans can’t forget that Lattimore also suffered an ACL tear in the opposite knee the previous year.
World-renowned surgeon Dr. James Andrews operated on the young star’s right knee after the latest devastating injury, and in just a few short months, the running back is already making great strides toward not only living normally, but getting back on the football field.
While these are great signs for the prospect’s future, Lattimore must consider doing the right thing and sitting out the 2013 campaign, if and when he gets selected in the NFL draft (Mike Mayock has him currently listed as a top-five running back.)
Lattimore declared for the draft (h/t ESPN's Joe Schad), and with Dr. Andrews at his side will attend the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine (h/t WACH in Columbia, S.C.), in order to be more accessible to the teams interested in taking the potential draft pick.
As well as the recovery process has gone so far, there are legitimate concerns that the prospect is pushing too hard to return to the field and could end up further damaging his injured limb.
Dr. Andrews told Robert Klemko of USA Today Sports how well Lattimore is coming along, but how he also tends to get ahead of the recovery process:
He's twice as far along as we ever expected him to be. He's so self motivated. This weight he's put on has been all muscle, which is absolutely impossible in most cases. It remains to be seen if he can play this season.
We've had to slow him down in certain activities because he'd get ahead of us. He's one of the finest young men I've ever had the opportunity to help take care of.
There is no questioning his raw physical abilities and his work ethic if his recovery is going this well; not every athlete has what it takes to be the next Adrian Peterson.
While Peterson recovered from major knee surgery to win the MVP award (h/t USA Today), that is the exception to the rule and not the way most athletes should handle their injuries.
Lattimore has a very bright future, but a year to rest and recover will not only give both of his knees time to properly heal and be strengthened with a full season of NFL-caliber workouts, but it will also give him a chance to learn from the veterans in the league about staying healthy.
As bright as Lattimore’s future is, he shouldn’t be pushing himself so hard to get back on the field.
Working hard to recover is one thing, but getting on the field in the NFL too soon after surgery could end his career forever.