Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Wes Welker's knee progressing splendidly
By Tim Graham
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The ability to stand alongside Stephania Bell and watch recovering players work out feels like I'm taking a peek into the trainer's room.
Last year, I had a chance to see Tom Brady practice with Bell providing educational commentary on his reconstructed left knee. She explained why torque was important, how his weight was distributed, how his stride indicated his comfort level, what it meant that he was wearing that particular type of brace.
Stephania Bell, ESPN's injury expert, is impressed with the recovery of Wes Welker.
Bell knows what she's talking about. She's ESPN's injury expert, a physical therapist who specializes in athletes and performance artists.
That's why I'd been looking forward to spending Tuesday with her at New England Patriots training camp, where she would get a first-hand look at Wes Welker's left knee.
All the better was the Patriots are working out against the New Orleans Saints, providing action that's as close as you can get to a game.
Welker tore his medial-collateral and anterior-cruciate ligaments in the regular-season finale eight months ago against the Houston Texas. The MCL healed on its own. Then Welker had surgery to repair the ACL a month later.
Bell was impressed with his recovery. She remarked how Welker demonstrated straight-ahead speed, caught passes in traffic (on one reception he fought through mauling pass interference by Saints cornerback Randall Gay) and made cuts with apparent ease.
But most notable to her was Welker's ability to decelerate and stop quickly, movements that put sheering force on the knee joint. Welker's made a career out of zigging and zagging through defenses.
"The nature of how he injured it in the first place -- a non-contact, decelerating, rotational injury -- is the type of player he is," Bell said. "He'll have to do that same motion multiple times. Every time he does it in practice and doesn't get hurt, it reinforces the recovery."
See? That's not the kind of football talk I usually hear from colleagues at training camp.
While she was speaking with Welker, I asked Bill O'Brien -- the Patriots quarterbacks coach and de facto offensive coordinator -- what he thought of Welker's amazing recuperation.
"It's hard not to look out there and say what this guy's doing is pretty cool," O'Brien said. "I've been around him now for four years. He's a very hard working guy. I wouldn't expect anything less from him. He's dying to get out there and play, and he worked very hard to get back to the point where he's at."