"I did get a sinking feeling," offensive coordinator Coach Woody McCorvey said. Fortunately there was encouraging information to go with the initial bad news. "We don't start practice until the first week of August and I know he'll be ready by then."
Linton confirmed this prognosis. "If it had to happen, and we hate it happened, it was when we had a few weeks to let it heal. We should be able to have him out there when practice starts."
If things could have turned out much worse, this still isn't a typical toe injury. "The break went into the joint," Linton reported. "There were actually three little fragments. Most of the time you hear about taping the toes together. But when it goes into the joint you have to sometimes do little surgeries, to make sure the joint is lined up so the toe will bend."
So Monday the doctor straightened out the pieces and pinned things together. This should assist the recovery process for Henig. "There's a pin in it right now, it will come out in a few weeks probably before practice starts," Linton explained. "We put the pin under the skin so next week we can start doing some things. We just have to make sure he puts pressure down right and doesn't use his arm wrong. But we're going to watch him and try to make sure we don't lose the fitness gained all summer.
"If there's any good news, it did not involve the ‘MP' joint which is where the ball of the foot is and the toe first comes off the foot. That's where we get most of our motion and push-off power. It was the next joint down. That can be a touch stiff and you still do everything, but we still want the bone to be lined up right."
McCorvey was relieved that this wasn't, say, a big toe injury which would have caused more problems and slowed everything down. Especially, the coach notes, for a quarterback. "The biggest thing we want is to make sure that thing gets healed. Right now we're going to leave him in that training room and let (head trainer) Paul Mock and Dr. Linton evaluate him and tell us what he is able to do. Along with Mike. When he feels he can get back out and do what he needs to do in terms of throwing the ball without injuring his arm, that's what I'm going to go on."
Fears of damaging the arm with a hurting toe are real. McCorvey doesn't want Henig, a very hard thrower, to come back too early, begin pumping and passing in a different manner to avoid pressure on the foot, and develop other issues. Then there is the simple matter of Henig's footwork after taking the snap. Again, it could have been worse.
"The biggest thing is the break being on his left foot is exerting pressure coming out from under center on the drop. Pushing out is where it affects Mike, but once he's back and plants he's pushing off his right foot. And a lot of time coming out under center the weight is on the ball of your foot and not your toe, that's a good thing."
Of course having the starting quarterback—Henig was essentially unchallenged in spring with both his backups redshirt freshmen—out of off-season action is not ideal at all. The third-year soph had been working daily with State receivers on patterns, throwing, and catching. Now the catching corps will be seeing balls from backups, while Henig loses a bit of edge off his summer conditioning.
"We may lose one week of being in shape," Dr. Linton said. "But I think we can figure out enough things to do to keep him in shape. We'll be able to let him do a lot of things, but there will some things he's not 100% until the bone heals and pin comes out."
"We're going to let him go and tell us what timetable Mike is on in terms of throwing and all of that," Coach McCorvey said. "Because I don't want him to go back out there where he can't put the kind of pressure he needs to on that foot and all of a sudden develop a problem with his arm."
The Bulldog varsity and a handful of newcomers have been working in the summer strength/conditioning program since May 30. They wrap up the first full month Wednesday, then take a NCAA-mandated week off from supervised work for semester exams and the holiday break. Workouts resume a week from Thursday, and while Henig will still be in the training room at least there is the assurance he will be ready for August.
"If it had to happen it came at a good time and didn't involve the worst possible joint," said Linton. "There are a few positives in this."