"Counting the off week, I was out for five weeks. That's a real long time to be away from football."
After winning the starting job at tight end during fall camp, Cavan had a good game in the Tide's opening win over Middle Tennessee. Though bulked up to the size of a blocking tight end now, Cavan has always been a talented receiver. And his 15-yard touchdown reception at the back of the endzone was a key play in Bama's victory over MTSU.
But the trip to Oklahoma the following week was difficult for Cavan. He dropped two key passes during the game, both of which were likely affected by his concussion. Cavan played again briefly the following week versus North Texas before the doctors sat him down.
"There really wasn't anything anyone could do about it," Cavan explained. "All I could do was watch from the sideline and work on my conditioning."
Cavan is the son of former Tide halfback Pete Cavan, who played for Coach Bryant from 1975-77. His uncle, Mike, was recently head coach at SMU.
Back when Pete and Mike were playing football, athletes commonly ignored concussions, continuing to play--often to the detriment of their long-term health. But modern sports medicine treats concussions and their accompanying symptoms with great caution. "The doctors wouldn't release me until I didn't have any more symptoms," Cavan related. "I kept telling them every day I really didn't have any.
"I was tempted to lie to them to get back quicker, but they take concussions seriously."
Cavan's position coach, Mark Tommerdahl, was glad to get him back. "He's a big ole' guy that can run and catch well," Tommerdahl said. "Fans know that."
Standing 6-5 and weighing close to 250 pounds, Cavan and junior Donald Clarke (6-6, 260) are the Tide's only true tight ends on the roster. In Cavan's absence, Clarke has played very well, catching seven passes for 153 yards (21.9 yards per catch).
"Donald had to sit out today," Cavan related. "but my first day back went good. I had a good practice. I hope he gets back soon."
Team policy prohibits the release of injury information during the season, but Clarke's injury is not believed to be serious. "Donald should be back by Saturday," Cavan said. "With both of us back, Alabama will be pretty deep at tight end. That's what we plan on."
Tommerdahl commented, "It's probably no accident that David comes back when Donald Clarke gets hurt. David Cavan provides us with much-needed immediate depth."
Concussion symptoms can plague an athlete for a long time. In fact, back in August former Tide fullback Donnie Lowe was forced to give up football due to a concussion.
"I feel pretty good," Cavan said after his first practice back. "I'm not experiencing any lingering effects at all. I had a little trouble at first getting my timing back. But me and Coach Pollard (Alabama's Strength and Conditioning coach) had been working hard on throwing and catching and my footwork the last few weeks, so I wasn't really that bad off."
Tommerdahl watched Cavan's performance carefully. "David did not have a bad first day. He caught the ball well. You could tell he hadn't played for awhile, but he appeared to be in fairly good shape. Obviously he's not going to be in the shape he was a month ago."
"Actually my conditioning was pretty good," Cavan added. "I was worried about it, but I did pretty good. I think the weather helped out a little. It's cooler now--not as hot."
"We'll see how he progresses during the week," Tommerdahl said. "He wasn't involved in everything today, but he's coming along."
Everyone hopes that Clarke will be able to play Saturday, but if not Cavan says he'll be ready for the Volunteers. "I picked a good week to come back. Tennessee is a big game. I'm glad I can come back and help the team for this one.
"I'm looking forward to being a part of our first win against Tennessee in awhile."