Penn State coach James Franklin has been loathe to discuss player injuries in his short time on the job in Happy Valley. But at a speaking engagement in Hershey, Pa., Wednesday morning, he basically confirmed what most fans already knew.
Linebacker Ben Kline will miss the 2014 season. Sources say Kline ruptured his left Achilles in June, though nobody within the program -- not even Kline himself -- has been willing to confirm that on the record.
However, he was wearing an immobilizing boot on his left foot at Penn State's Lift For Life Challenge last Saturday, and afterward strength coach Dwight Galt III confirmed Kline had undergone a surgical procedure.
Wednesday, Franklin admitted the redshirt junior would be out for the year.
In a lot of ways, it's almost impossible for him to come back (in 2014) with that type of injury (considering) when it occurred, Franklin said.
The injury hit the program hard, and not only because the Nittany Lions are thin at linebacker and Kline was expected to compete for a starting outside spot. He is also a team leader, and as the president of PSU's Chapter of Uplifting Athletes was a key figure (even after the injury) in organizing this year's Lift For Life. The annual event raises money and awareness for the fight against kidney cancer.
Kline has also struggled with multiple injuries the past year and a half, having surgery four times -- twice to repair a bad shoulder, once for a torn pectoral and once for the foot issue.
Ben was tough because of today, Galt said at LFL. That was a huge blow. We've all rallied around Ben emotionally, but it was a huge blow to everybody. Everybody was just devastated because of what he's been through in his four years here. Unbelievable kid, unbelievable teammate. So respected. So we're trying to get him through this emotionally.
”Everybody was just devastated because of what he's been through in his four years here. Unbelievable kid, unbelievable teammate. So respected. So we're trying to get him through this emotionally.”
He's one of the hardest workers I've been around since I've been here, added linebacker Mike Hull. A really great football player and a great guy. So you just hate to see stuff like that happen to him.
To his credit, Kline was still in charge at LFL, using a small utility vehicle to get from place to place on the Penn State Lacrosse Field. His dedication to the cause -- LFL has raised a record $140,000 so far this year -- impressed everyone in the program.
Within three days (of the injury), he was just like, 'I've got to get healthy, get through surgery and do Lift For Life,' Galt said. He knows his situation is gonna be a little bit tenuous for this year.
Unfortunately for Kline and the program, it is looking more like very tenuous. However, Kine does have another year of eligibility remaining. The linebacker sidestepped questions about the injury at LFL -- deferring to Franklin's policy -- but Galt said the idea was to try to bring him back slowly.
For physical and emotional reasons.
I haven't even put him in the weight room yet, Galt said at LFL. I've been leaving him alone. We'll start lifting him next week. But he's the most positive guy in the world.
It's tough, tight end Adam Breneman added. It seems to always happen to the best guys. But he's a strong guy and a strong player and I know he'll make a full recovery.