Sidelined all of winter and spring with a persistent groin problem that simply will not go away, Bates has endured more than his share of pain and frustration the last several months. All football players--especially rush ends--are dependent on quickness and speed. And painful groin muscles can cripple their effectiveness.
But the Tide staff believes a solution is now close. "Todd and I are flying to Philadelphia this week to see the physician up there," Brown said. "He's got osteitis pubis or a possible sports hernia that may require surgery."
The more serious diagnosis of osteitis pubis would dictate surgery, but at least Bates could finally take concrete steps toward recovery. "The guys in Philadelphia can tell us whether it's definitely an osteitis pubis or just what is called a sports hernia," Brown said. "Travis Stinnett (current Tide basketball guard) had that problem. And Ryan Pflugner (former Tide placekicker) had it his sophomore year.
"This is the same doctor that did Ryan's surgery."
The only freshman in the Tide's 2001 signing class to see action last year, Bates played in nine regular season games, including a start against LSU. He also saw action in the Independence Bowl against Iowa State, turning in three tackles. Bates had a total of 209 snaps on the year. He was credited with 23 tackles, including three stops behind the line of scrimmage and a quarterback pressure. Bates also recovered two fumbles, including one he returned for 27 yards against Arkansas. Both fumble recoveries led to Alabama touchdowns.
Brown explained what a possible surgery would entail. "They make small incisions around the groin muscles where they attach to the pelvis. The doctors go in and clean out inflamed tissue and where the lower abdominal muscles attach as well. You make four small incisions. Two under and two on top. Go in and scrape down the inflamed tissue. Look for any injury to the abdominal wall where it attaches to the pelvis. They'll also do what is called a pelvic floor repair."
If he were fully healthy, Bates would currently be a prime member of the playing rotation at defensive end. There is no question that surgery will slow down significantly his progress in the summer conditioning program, but at this point there is no reason to assume that Bates would necessarily be forced to redshirt next season.
"If he has to have surgery and then has a good summer of rehab, then I feel positive about him being back in the fall," Brown said. "Our understanding is that at max the recovery time is three months, which would put us right at the beginning of fall practice--or sooner.
"Some athletes have gotten back (from this type surgery) in as little as six to eight weeks. There are NFL players that have been able to do that. On the other hand, this is also what Barry Larkin (Major League baseball player) had and he pretty much missed the whole season. But I think his surgery was done during the season."
If Bates were available to play in 2002, his presence would go a long way toward solidifying an already good D-Line rotation. And it would probably allow Franchione the luxury of once again redshirting virtually his entire incoming class.
"We're hoping his recovery is more on the ‘sooner side,'" Brown said. "But we'll just have to see."