90 hours later, we are still struggling with how to react to the ghastly injury to Evan Moore, sustained Saturday night in Stanford's season opener at Navy. The junior wide receiver dislocated his hip, which was put back into joint that evening at a local hospital after he received anesthesia. The good news learned immediately that evening was that Moore did not break any bones, as revealed by an X-ray at that evening.
Incredibly, Moore was cleared and able to fly back with his teammates to Stanford that very night. The 6'7" athlete had his own row cleared out, with his leg elevated. I'm not a doctor (and I don't even play one on the Internet), but that was the first of several developments since this traumatic injury that has surprised me. Here are a few more:
- By Monday, Moore was pain-free enough that he needed no pain killers/medicine.
- Doctor's orders have him prescribed for only one week on crutches, while other athletes with hip dislocations have needed a month or more.
- Head coach Walt Harris said in his Monday press conference that Moore is out "six to eight weeks," a startling timeframe relative to the widespread assumption that the starting wideout would be lost for the season.
- The MRI and CT scan results delivered Tuesday evening "look as good as they could possibly look."
- Moore through yesterday was wearing a brace on his right leg, extending from the middle of his shin to the middle of his thigh, to immobilize leg movement. However, he has now been told that he can already begin moving that leg and begin some load-bearing activity.
If you add these all up, you start to get the picture that Evan Moore may be faring better than expected, with what is often a career-ending injury. The prognosis delivered to Moore and the Cardinal coaching staff by team doctor Gary Fanton was that the wide receiver will miss a month and a half to two months. In equating a month to four weeks, that is how you heard "six to eight weeks" from Harris on Monday. A safer translation would be seven to nine weeks, though we are still several weeks away from evaluating the early stages of his rehabilitation. Harris and the doctors say that they want to do everything to protect Moore, though the competitive Cardinal wideout says that he wants to push the edge of the envelope in his rehab.
A return of seven to nine weeks, which has a lot of non-trivial "ifs" before it can be believed, would put Moore back in action for the last three or four regular season games - essentially, the month of November. That is also the most trying portion of the 2005 Stanford schedule, by far.
If Stanford looks probable for a bowl game, or even in contention for a bowl game, you may be surprised to see how aggressively Evan Moore pushes himself to return to the field. If he does not have the mobility or the cardiovascular conditioning to play football at a contributing level, Moore is smart enough to know not to play. But you can expect him to take a page from friend and former basketball teammate Dan Grunfeld in racing ahead of the normal rehab and return schedule.
Fans will not only be afraid for the risk of reinjury, should Moore push himself back onto the field too soon, but they will also cry out that he should take the medical redshirt and leave himself two more complete seasons of college eligibility. Remember that the jumbo receiver played as a true freshman in 2003 and has through 2007 to complete his four years of playing. However, to know Evan Moore is to know that he wants to play now and not sit on his hands. He is also very close friends, and in fact lives together with, quarterback Trent Edwards. Both are in their third/junior year of playing eligibility and would graduate after the 2006 season. It is a difficult personal decision for somebody like Moore to sideline himself a year and depart the track of his quarterback and good friend.
Moreover, what is to say that Evan Moore does not have a monster year in 2006, as one of the top receivers in the Pac-10 and the nation, propelling him into a high draft position? The "saved" year of '07 eligibility may never be played.
There are a lot of reasons why we should expect that this injury has ended Moore's 2005 season, but with surprisingly positive medical clues presenting themselves, November could be an eventful month of debate and decision-making. Stay tuned...
The very fact that we can sanely explore whether Evan Moore could or should return to the field later this season is a welcome shift of discussion from the prospect just two days ago that he may never play football again. The specter of Bo Jackson has hung over Moore since his hip dislocation Saturday evening. And while the above evidence, and beaming positive attitude that Moore is currently carrying as a result, tell us that such a fate does not appear likely for the Stanford student-athlete, it cannot yet be ruled out. The swelling around Moore's injury does not yet allow a definitive view of the critical blood circulation. We have to wait until October before another MRI is taken to reveal whether his blood is flowing normally to the affected area (femoral head) of his right hip. Inadequate blood circulation, a condition known as Avascular Necrosis (AVN), could lead to deterioration of bone and cartilage, arthritis, and compromised range of motion.
There are numerous cases where a hip dislocation forever changed an athlete's ability to run, rendering him an early retiree. Not only would that be a crushing and unkind fate for Moore, who is well-liked by teammates and fans alike, but it would also undoubtedly cost him millions of dollars. A healthy Evan Moore is certain to be a high NFL Draft selection sometime soon. We made the mistake of calling him a tight end during his recruitment out of Brea Olinda High School three years ago, but he has shown since that he has the size and physical tools to be one of the most unique receiving weapons at any level of football.
Somewhere between the best case scenario (November return) and worst case scenario (end of career), is the loss of this 2005 season for Evan Moore. While the next two months, or more, of Moore's void will be filled by Gerren Crochet and Justin McCullum, it cannot be filled completely. I say that with all due respect to the two fifth-year senior receivers. They are talented, experienced and intelligent playmakers who can help Stanford win games this fall. Just last Saturday, they combined for 92 yards and a touchdown off the bench. But the truth is that nobody on this team, or on any team in the Pac-10, can do what Moore can do.
There are big and athletic receivers around the conference today, with USC's Dwayne Jarrett being one such talent, but even he does not present the same dominating size differential to make plays above any and every defensive back assigned to him. Moore made improvements in his game during the summer and training camp that had him playing far ahead of anything you had seen from him in his previous two years at Stanford. Not only could he catch every ball thrown even reasonably well by his quarterback, on the sideline or in the endzone, but Moore also was becoming a truly imposing blocking force for Stanford's offense.
The self-confident junior was aiming to break Stanford's single-season touchdowns record this fall, and it would have been an unwise gambler to bet against his doing so. But the challenge Walt Harris handed Moore in August was to become the Pac-10's most physical receiver. At 6'7", Moore had previously understood how to play above defenders, but he was now learning how to manhandle his opponents.
"Nobody on our team can really duplicate what he can do." That quote from fifth-year senior inside linebacker Kevin Schimmelmann on Monday has been repeated countless times by countless players and coaches in the last several days. The truth is that Evan Moore is worth something we can scarcely describe. In one or more games this fall, he would have been able to pull down a big reception or a difficult touchdown that no other receiver can produce. He is worth field position and points on the board. In some close game against some very good opponent (who Stanford supposedly "cannot beat"), Evan Moore would likely be the difference in an upset win. More likely than not, his injury will pull one win off the 2005 tally and put it back in the loss column.
That is an unpleasant projection to swallow, but such is the impact felt by a dominating and at times unstoppable offensive weapon like Moore. Football is a combined effort of 11 teammates working together on a given play, but one player can be so superlative as to singularly change the outcome on several key plays. Evan Moore was probably Stanford's best player to fit that description, and now he is gone. Once we recognize the magnitude of the loss, and adjust our expectations accordingly, we can move on... And we can hope and pray that his loss is a temporary one, for both his sake and for the Cardinal's.
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