"You've got a commitment to your teammates to go out there and perform."
With the new rules interpretations on holding, athletes are using their hands more and more for blocking. Shoot your arms and get under the defender's shoulder pads. That's the key to gaining the necessary leverage.
But with the motion comes stress to the shoulder joint, and injuries--both minor and major--commonly result. "I hurt (my shoulder) during the Mississippi State game," Collins related. "I hurt my rotator cuff in my shoulder. It hurt pretty much when I raised my arm above my head.
"As a wide receiver, that could be pretty tough."
Head Athletic Trainer for Football Rodney Brown explained. "Sam had what we call an undersurface partial thickness tear of his rotator cuff. He had a little tearing on the under surface of the tendon."
Collins played with the injury through the final two games of the season and the Independence Bowl, a sequence of contests that also happened to coincide with Bama's four-game winning streak. "There is pain to play with that injury," Brown said. "When you get hit just right, it can be painful. Especially when you have to raise your arm up fast."
But more than anyone else football players understand that their time in the spotlight is limited. "It's a short season," Collins said. "Actually, in the game everything is going by so fast that you don't feel it. But once the play is over, that's when you realize ‘Man! That hurt.'
"But when you're out there on the field, you're a competitor. You just put everything aside you can and help your team win."
When Collins returned from Christmas break still experiencing pain, the decision was made to repair the shoulder through surgery. "Basically you go in and debris it out," Brown said. "The old torn area and scar tissue is removed, which helps promote the healing. Once the athlete does that and gets his strength and motion back, then he does fine."
Collins was held out of full-contact work during spring, but the Tide medical staff expects him back completely healthy for summer conditioning. "He'll be fine by summer," Brown said. "We held him out of spring full-contact as more a precaution than anything."
Redshirt freshman Clint Johnston also experienced rotator cuff problems, but in his case the injury occurred when he fell awkwardly attempting to catch a pass. "Clint strained one of his calf muscles, and also in the A-Day game he strained his rotator cuff," Brown said. "But it was just a strain and not a tear. He's fine now. We've released him from treatment."
In fact, barely more than a week after A-Day, Johnston set a personal best in the hang clean by lifting 340 pounds. "He was cleaning real well for the Night of Champions," Brown noted. "So he was doing good then."
Like Collins, junior Dre Fulgham also played with shoulder pain the latter part of the season. But thankfully his injury was minor. "Dre's problem was just tendinitis," Brown said. "And his shoulder is fine now. He was 100 percent even back before the bowl game."
Two key Tide defenders suffered full-blown shoulder separations last season. In the case of defensive end Antwan Odom the decision was made to operate immediately, ending his year after only a couple of games. But cornerback Hirchel Bolden actually played the entire season wearing a restrictive brace. The senior wasn't operated on until January.
Bolden and Odom are essentially healed now, and both athletes are being counted on as major contributors next season. "Hirchel dislocated his shoulder during two-a-days," Brown said. "He wore a brace through the season. And as soon as we got back from the bowl game, we made the decision to fix it. He missed spring, but his rehab is going well. He'll be ready to go in the fall."
"As for Antwan, he is released from formal rehab," Brown continued. "He'll continue with some additional exercises for his rotator cuff after he finishes his regular weight lifting. He'll come (into the training room) and do some exercises for a maintenance program. But he is released (medically)."