The advances in medicine, technology and rehabilitation of athletes has grown exponentially over the past ten years. So much so, that it is often easy to expect too much too soon of athletes recovering from severe injury.
I'm as guilty of it as anyone. I placed Boston College outside linebacker Mark Herzlich in my initial 2011 first round mock draft * before he'd taken a single snap following his successful recovery from Ewing's sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer.
Herzlich and Miami running back Graig Cooper -- who is attempting to play this season despite suffering a torn ACL in his right knee only six months ago in the Champs Sports Bowl -- are inspirational stories. Their dedication and spectacular talent make them two of the easiest players in the country to root for.
Herzlich, as has been widely reported , is already struggling in his return to the field. It isn't the cancer -- he recently underwent tests to confirm the cancer is gone and passed -- but a fractured right foot that is now the problem. It had been incorrectly reported elsewhere that Herzlich's broken foot was somehow connected to the cancer that had been discovered in his left leg. That isn't the case his mother, Sandy, told Steve Conroy of BostonHerald.com.
Conroy quotes Herzlich's mother as saying, "The two (the cancer and the broken foot) are completely unrelated."
Still, the broken foot has kept Herzlich off the field. He hopes to return to the practice field the week before Boston College opens their season against Weber State September 4. The Eagles coaches will no doubt be anxious to reward Herzlich for his dedication with early playing time, but it simply isn't realistic to think he is going to step onto the field and immediately revert back to the form that helped him capture the 2008 ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors.
Similarly, it isn't fair to assume that Miami's Cooper will have the same speed and agility this year that he'd shown throughout his impressive career with the Hurricanes. While Cooper has remained adament that he plans to play in every game this season, Miami coaches are still easing him into practice. Cooper, according to reports , has seen time on the practice field, but is limited to drills and has not participated in any true scrimmaging.
Prior to their injuries, these two ACC stars would have ranked among NFLDraftScout.com's top 32 seniors for the 2011 draft. Perhaps they'll prove - with time - worthy of that grade again.
But for now, let's simply acknowledge the spectacular recovery each has already shown and be sure that our expectations for their play in 2010 is realistic.
* One editor's note on my initial 2011 mock draft linked to above. While the date on the article says July 12, in actuality I wrote this within 48 hours of the conclusion of the 2010 draft. With significantly more scouting completed since that time, there are plenty of updates that will soon be made.