Tuesday, Dave Wannstedt announced that senior defensive end Greg Romeus would have back surgery Thursday to repair a disc. Wednesday, Wannstedt took time to meet with the media, to elaborate on some of the steps the training staff took to avoid surgery, as well as talk about other issues relevant to Romeus' absence.
It all started with Wannstedt getting emotional, when describing one of the players of his first full recruiting class in 2006.
"I think you all know how I feel about Greg; he's been one of my guys," Wannstedt said. "This is a little bit of a setback."
The first thing he wanted to clarify, is that this is not an injury that surgery wasn't a relevant issue prior to the season. Going back to spring practice, Romeus was at 100 percent.
"He participated in every spring practice last year," Wannstedt said. "He was one of the top two performers for what he did last summer--lifting, running, everything involved. When this happened the first day or two; when he started having problems in the first day or two of (training camp), we took every step medically that was recommended--from therapy, doctors, shots--everything that was recommended to get it resolved without having surgery."
Though he was vague about Romeus' status from the get-go, deep down he believed it was something Romeus could get through. As Romeus struggled to finish the Utah game, and when it was evident that he wasn't going to be able to go for last week's New Hampshire game, that's when surgery became the option for Romeus and his family.
"When nothing completely cleared it up, to the point where he felt he could perform at a high level, this is where we're at," Wannstedt said. "He'll have the surgery (Thursday). He'll get back with us as fast as he can get back."
Obviously, the first concern is Romeus' own health. Wannstedt believes Romeus will return for--as he said in his statement on Tuesday--the conclusion of the season. He doesn't have an exact target date in mind, but he did say it will be for the regular season, not a potential bowl game.
"It's not a season-ending surgery," Wannstedt said. "How many games he'll get back for, we'll just have to take that week-to-week. I'm very confident that when Greg gets back, he'll be playing at a high level, and that he'll come back and have a great senior year. Obviously, injuries are a part of the game. We know that."
During his days as an NFL coach, Wannstedt had two former players go through similar procedures--Charles Haley with the Dallas Cowboys, and Daryl Gardner, while he was with the Dolphins. Both players, in their respective cases, were out four to six weeks. Wannstedt would not specify whether that would be Romeus' timetable, as well.
"Charles Haley had one, before the Super Bowl," Wannstedt said. "When I was with the Dolphins, Daryl Gardner had one. He came back and finished out the season. I have been involved with players--in fact all defensive linemen--that have had the surgery, and gotten back, and finished out the season."
Speaking of NFL, how much is an injury like this going to hurt Romeus' NFL status?
"I think his film, and type of character and all the intangibles, he's a guy that's clean," Wannstedt said. "When you're defensive player of the year, that carries a lot of volume. His resume is good. I'd take him."
With Romeus out, obviously there's a big void. Before even looking at which defensive end, or ends, will fill in for him, the entire team has to take a big step. Part of that includes the leaders of this team, whoever they may be. Wannstedt actually hinted at some of the underclassmen, who not only can provide the leadership, but will be expected to, immediately.
"It's going to test us, there's no questions," Wannstedt said. "I think sometimes, when I look back on two years ago, three years ago, maybe the Nate Byhams and Dorin Dickersons--these guys as sophomores--were more of the backbone and the leadership of the team than you want to give them credit for. I think when I look at our team right now, you see the Max Gruders, and the Jared Holleys, you see the Myles Carageins of the world. On offense, you see Cam Saddler, Mike Shanahan, Dion Lewis, Henry Hynoski. We've got some great leaders right there. Tino Sunseri is going to be a heck of a leader. We've got some leadership. It's just a lack of experienced leadership."