No Time To Relax For Injured Hogs

FAYETTEVILLE — Injured players don't get a day off, at least not at Arkansas.

Players, unable to practice because of aches and pains, put on boxing gloves and throw jabs and uppercuts at a punching bag.

They also spend their time pulling a heavy tackling sled — sometimes with a rope, sometimes uphill and sometimes with another teammate sitting on the back of it.

And to add insult to injury, hurt players often have to crawl along the sidelines on their hands and knees like a bear, a three-legged dog or a soldier in combat while their teammates practice nearby.

"It's not a fun experience being hurt," said Arkansas defensive end Jake Bequette, who missed several practices last week with a concussion.

Bequette was held out of the rehab exercises as he dealt with the effects of his first concussion. But he saw what some of his other teammates had to do while nursing minor injuries.

And it didn't look like a good time.

"Some of these guys, they've been hitting those (punching) bags. They might be ready for the heavyweight championship of the world," Bequette joked. "But it's intense. You don't want to be hurt around here."

Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino wants his players to be tough and learn how to play through pain. In that respect, he's like other college coaches who make sure that their injured players don't just stand on the sidelines during practice.

Florida coach Urban Meyer has what's appropriately nicknamed "The Pit." Players who cannot practice must haul rocks, lug chains and shovel sand during practice.

The similarities between the methods used at Arkansas and Florida aren't a coincidence. Arkansas strength and conditioning coach Jason Veltkamp worked with Meyer when they were at Utah in the early 2000s.

At Arkansas, players with serious injuries are excused from the exercises, but those who are simply banged up must stay busy at practice. That means boxing, pulling sleds and doing plenty of bear crawls in the hot sun.

"You don't want to just see them sit on the sidelines with an ice pack, and when they come back out, they're two weeks behind or a week behind conditioning wise," Petrino said. "So we try to do everything we can conditioning wise and still be able to (let players) recover from the injury."

During a recent practice, Arkansas linebacker Ryan Powers didn't look like he was having much fun while sidelined with a strained right hamstring.

For nearly two hours, he pulled a tackling sled that had weights put on the back of it to make it heavier. He pushed the sled forward and backward and then stood at the top of a hill next to Arkansas' practice field and pulled the sled up with a thick rope.

"It wasn't that tough. It was just like working out," Powers said. "The weight room is tough, so it's about like that."

Powers said it wouldn't have been right for him to stand on the sidelines, nursing his hamstring injury while his teammates practiced only a few yards away. The least he could do was get in a workout.

But the sophomore didn't get the chance like several other injured players to slip on a pair of black boxing gloves and throw haymakers at a punching bag being held by an athletic trainer.

Boxing is one of several unconventional techniques that Veltkamp has brought with him to Arkansas. Petrino said the sparring sessions help players rehab their injuries and work their core at the same time.

"It looks kind of fun to me," Powers said, flashing a smile. Everything else looks painful.

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