Hazelton, a senior who transferred from USC, tore his left ACL in the season opener at Fresno State and was presumed lost for the season. But his rehab is ahead of schedule, and he says he wants to come back for the season finale against Pittsburgh on Dec. 4.
"I'm determined," he told the Enquirer. "I definitely want to come back. It’s starting to pay off. The doctors are telling me they’re amazed by how fast I’m healing.”
If Hazelton is indeed ready, it will be an interesting decision whether he should come back. ACL recoveries are getting quicker than ever, but for a receiver to come back that fast and have his usual speed and cutting ability would be pretty amazing. Hazelton would risk re-injuring the knee and severely damaging his NFL hopes.
“I look at like you’ve only got one life to live,” Hazelton said. “I’m not going to put myself in that situation. Neither is the doctor. I’m going to get it looked at by a whole bunch of doctors and make sure everything is good. If I feel good, I’m going to play. I’m not going to hold back from nothing."
Hazelton could also try and gain a medical redshirt and play next season for the Bearcats. But as a senior who has already sat out a year under NCAA transfer rules, he is not guaranteed to get a sixth year of eligibility, and the NCAA is unpredictable in its decision. He cannot apply for that redshirt until after the season, and it could take weeks or months after that before he gets an official decision.
Hazelton might also want to see where the Bearcats are by Dec. 4. What if Cincinnati is playing for a Big East title in the finale? Hazelton could then come back and contribute toward a possible BCS game. Or what if the Bearcats are heading toward 6-6 or worse? Would it then be worth it to come back?