Vinnett Hobbled By 'Complicated' Injury

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas cornerback Darius Vinnett entered 2005 as one of the cornerstones of coordinator Reggie Herring's defense.

But, after starting the first two games, the senior might have to find a permanent place on the sideline because of what Arkansas trainer Dean Weber described as a complicated and severe case of knee tendinitis.

Vinnett's injury-plagued season has been put on hold until Arkansas' training staff can find a way to relieve his aching knees, which began bothering him during the summer. Weber said Arkansas still believes Vinnett can return, but it has become apparent that he won't be able to simply play through the pain this season.

"The more you play through it, the worse it gets," Weber said. "That option is kind of out. It seems to make it worse and then your performance goes down.

"We're not saying that (he's out for the year) yet. But if he did happen to be out for the rest of the year, at this point, he would qualify for a medical hardship."

That might be the best option for Vinnett, who missed the majority of preseason practices because of sore knees and has been sidelined since getting scratched from the lineup minutes before the 70-17 loss at top-ranked Southern California.

"It bothers me a lot," Vinnett said last week. "It's real sore to change directions and accelerate and run, really. I tried to give it a go (at USC), but, when I got in, it was still a little sore and bothering me. So they didn't play me too much."

His injury, on the surface, sounds simple in a sport where muscle tears, ligament tears and broken bones end seasons. But Weber said it has been much more difficult to treat because it is fairly uncommon.

The training staff has been searching for similar cases for some time, trying to find the best way to treat Vinnett. There have been few definitive answers. So Arkansas has been forced to conduct, somewhat, of a trial-and-error rehabilitation program.

"If you can eliminate the cause you can solve the problem," Weber said. "The cause of his is a little bit complicated. It involves several things, his back, his hips, his (muscles). We're getting all of that part corrected.

"Trying to get the rest resolved, we're not even sure. We're trying to research this, but, in this particular case there's not a lot written."

Weber said Vinnett is experiencing pain in his tibial tuberosity, a bone just below his knee where the patella tendon is attached. The injury is severe enough that Vinnett cannot run, cut or move without feeling plenty of pain.

Weber said Vinnett's injury resembles a condition known as Osgood-Schlatter disease, which, according to the Web site, www.Osgood-Schlatter.com, is the most frequent cause of knee pain from children ages 10 to 15. According to the Web site, "the condition is probably caused by the powerful quadriceps muscle pulling on the attachment point of the patella tendon during running activities such as soccer, basketball, track and other sports."

However, Weber said Vinnett's condition only resembles Osgood-Schlatter disease.

"He just can hardly bend his knees," coach Houston Nutt said Sunday. "He can't change direction. That's been the strangest injury we've had since we've been here.

"Usually a broken bone or something torn, we understand it. But it's hard to understand that. He has knots on the bottom of his knee cap. It's just strange."

Weber said the goal is to get Vinnett's knees "quieted down enough" to where he can return to practice.

Vinnett is undergoing treatment on his back and hips. Arkansas also is trying to reduce swelling in his knees. And they'll keep looking for any surgical procedures that might be able to correct the problem.

But, for now, there's no simple solution to healing Vinnett's sore knees.

"It's not so much day to day," Weber said about the potential timetable for Vinnett's return. "It's, how long can you go feeling good on it? How long do you have to stay off it to let it heal? Will it heal? If you take off six months, is it going to come back? If you take off a year, will it come back?

"There ain't no guarantees. Whatever caused that, whatever sharp cut or whatever it was that caused it, it might cause it again. I don't know."

Taking a Bye
Arkansas, which is off until meeting Louisiana-Monroe on Oct. 8 in Little Rock, is 4-5 following bye weeks in Nutt's eight-year tenure.

Nutt led the Hogs to wins in their first four games following bye weeks, beating Southern Methodist (44-17) and Auburn (24-21) in 1998; Louisana-Monroe (44-6) in 1999; and Alabama (28-21) in 2000. Arkansas has dropped its last five after bye weeks against Alabama (31-10 and 30-12) in 2001 and 2002; Auburn (10-3 and 38-20) in 2003 and 2004; and South Carolina (35-32) last season.

But Nutt said the first off week of the 2005 season comes at a good time for the Hogs, who dropped three straight. Nutt hopes the extra week will help the Hogs regroup and give running back Darren McFadden (shoulder), linebacker Pierre Brown (knee), right guard Jonathan Luigs (ankle) and defensive tackle Marcus Harrison time to heal some bumps and bruises.

"It gives them a chance to just re-energize, cleanse our soul from top to bottom," Nutt said. "That was a tough last three weeks. But I'll say this, from coming off that plane last Sunday morning at 7 a.m. (after the 70-17 loss at top-ranked Southern California) to this point, I still feel much, much better."

Arkansas free safety Vickiel Vaughn said he's glad to get the rest. But, at the same time, the senior would like get back on the field as soon as possible.

"It's two-fold," Vaughn said. "It's good the guys can get a rest, get their bodies healed up. But you also want to play again, get that taste out of your mouth and try to get a win and improve your season."

Extra Points
Weber said Luigs, Brown, McFadden and Harrison should be available for Arkansas' next game against Louisiana-Monroe. Tight end Jared Hicks (ankle) and right guard Zac Tubbs (ankle) are questionable. ... Weber said Tubbs, like Vinnett, would be eligible for a medical hardship if he cannot return this season. ... Linebacker Sam Olajubutu, after a 16-tackle performance, remained on top of the Southeastern Conference in tackles after the Alabama game. The junior is averaging 10.8 tackles a game. ... Arkansas will return to the field today. They'll practice Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, then take Friday and Saturday off.


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