COMMENTARY: A salute to Pankey

YOU HAVE TO give it up for Keith Pankey. When the Oregon State linebacker insisted he'd be ready this fall after rupturing his Achilles back in February, I took it to be more hopeful than anything else. The body can't always be returned to health in X number of months by sheer will and hard work, and I thought the chances were slim indeed Pankey would be ready by August's fall camp. I was wrong.

Keith Pankey ruptured his Achilles tendon on Feb. 10. It's not a quick healing injury.

The day it happened, I looked around on the web, and found similar circumstances for an Air Force quarterback and Michigan State basketball player -- when they ruptured their Achilles, the normal recovery time was expected to be 4-6 months. For a Pittsburgh Steelers starting right tackle, the expected recovery time when he ruptured his Achilles was 9 months.

And of course, Gabe Miller early in his career ruptured his Achilles and lost a season.

For Pankey, six months out would put him right around the very day fall camp starts.

WELL, FIVE MONTHS removed from the injury, Pankey is "fully recovered," he tells the Corvallis Gazette Times, and he still has a month to work himself back close to playing condition before fall camp gets underway.

"Now it's a matter of getting strength back," Pankey told the newspaper. "I'm starting jumping. I've been doing hip flexor work. That needs more work. I noticed that when I'm running."

PANKEY MAY STILL end up redshirting, there's a difference between being healthy enough to practice and 100 percent back to where a player was before the injury. But what he's done is given himself a chance to play this year. A very good chance, it sounds like.

But what I found just as, if not more impressive as Pankey's rehab, is his mentality. The competitor in Pankey doesn't want to redshirt for a lot of reasons -- but what he mentioned most prominently, and the way he did it -- playing alongside fellow senior OLB Dwight Roberson -- should make every Beaver fan proud.

"It never crossed my mind; I never made that an option," Pankey said. "Dwight is my brother on the field. That was the first thing I thought about after I tore it. For me, it's really important to finish with Dwight. That's something we planned, and I want to do this together."

Whether Pankey is ready to full-on, rock and roll in fall camp, and then the opener, is a story that remains to be authored. But I won't make the mistake I did last time.

I'm sure not counting him out.

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