Cleveland Learns Cause of Neck Problem

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas tight end Ben Cleveland finally knows what's been causing him to miss practice with pain in his neck.

Assistant athletic trainer Eric Linson said Thursday that Cleveland was diagnosed earlier this week with nerve damage in his brachical plexus, which runs from the spine, through the neck and into the arm.

Linson said the injury is what the trainers had suspected it was, but it wasn't confirmed until Cleveland visited with specialists in Little Rock on Monday.

Linson said he couldn't give an accurate timetable on when the former Springdale High star might be able to return to the field, though it could be anywhere from a few weeks to several months.

"One of the doctors said that (type of injury) could take, in his opinion, several weeks," Linson said. "Now that might mean several weeks that leads into a month or two, but that could be several weeks."

Cleveland has been ruled out for Saturday night's season opener against Troy University, and it's uncertain when the sophomore will return or if he'll redshirt the season.

Before Cleveland can return, Linson said the tight end must get back his strength and range of motion in his arm, as well as show no symptoms. At the moment, Cleveland has lost strength in his left arm.

"Basically, his weakness is from the elbow up," Linson said.

Cleveland's injury has been a frustrating one for Arkansas' coaches and athletic trainers. He's had a number of tests, and he's visited with several specialists in Little Rock and Houston to try to determine the cause of the problem.

He's missed most of preseason practices.

Linson said the nerve damage should heal in time, but this could be an ongoing problem for Cleveland.

"It's going to be a week-to-week situation. As the doctor said, it might take weeks," Linson said. "It's going to be up to Ben and it's going to be up to how diligent he is. ...

"It's going to heal when it wants to heal."

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