Frank, Bradford on Season-Ending Injuries

These are the Q&A sessions we dread. Sitting down with a hard-working and good-hearted student-athlete who has just had his season (or career) ripped from him is difficult. Twice this week, we and some other local media talked with Stanford seniors dealt devastating news by their injuries. Both Nick Frank and Mark Bradford fortunately were poised and composed in the face of disappointment.

Senior fullback Nick Frank

Opening statement:

"The decision that the training staff, the doctors and I decided on is based on the results of a couple imagine tests and things they saw.  I look at it as an extremely unfortunate event for me, obviously.  But I think it was in my best interests for my long-term health to go ahead and stop playing."

Nick, can you take us through how this all came about?  Did you start feeling pain during the San Jose State game?  When had you felt pain previously?

"My first sign of anything being wrong actually came last year.  I had a couple episodes that were similar to what happened this past weekend.  I was immediately given an MRI and a CAT scan.  From everything the team physicians saw, it looked to be okay.  There didn't look like there were any various things going on.  I kept playing and had some other symptoms leading up to this year.  At the San Jose State game, things reached a peak.  That's when I decided to talk to the doctors about what could possibly be wrong."

You scored a one-yard touchdown Saturday.  Did you feel pain after that?  Were you feeling pain before it?

"I actually had one of the episodes in pre-game warm-ups.  It was something that was going on throughout the game.  At that time, all I knew was what the doctors had told me - I was healthy to play.  It wasn't an issue until we got some new scans this past week."

Can you be a little more specific about the episodes?  Are we talking about headaches, dizziness?  And then is this the result of an injury, or is this a condition that you are dealing with?

"The way that the doctors explained it to me is that it is more of a condition.  It is congenital thing - basically, the narrowing of my spinal canal...  I would get numbness and tingling in my arms after collisions."

Nick, what is your long-term prognosis for your health now after football?

"They explained to me that they really can't tell me exactly what will go on with it.  But they are pretty confident that as long as I stop the collisions, I should be fine in the long term."

Nick, I know that part of the pain is that you don't get to play tomorrow, which hurts on so many levels  I know that you were also going to be a captain.  Are you still going to have the chance to walk out at midfield?

"Coach Harris has said that it would be okay for me to walk out with the rest of the captains one last time, which means a lot to me.  Obviously, I'm still in a state of shock.  It's a pretty abrupt ending for me.  But I'm there with the guys trying to get this turned around and will do whatever I can to try and help them."

Did you go with a different test than you did last year, to get this checked out?

"No.  The only difference is that this year I was able to see some neurosurgeon specialists at the Stanford Hospital, who deal with these things a little bit more frequently, to see more minute things that were going on."

Did they tell you what the risks would be if you kept playing?

"Once again, they couldn't really predict what could possibly happen if my spinal cord kept experiencing the trauma.  Things associated with nerve damage, I guess, is how they laid it out for me."

You said that you had numbness and tingling in your arms.  Was that one arm or both arms?

"Both arms."

Can you talk a little more about your emotions and reactions surrounding the idea that you can no longer play football?

"This was something totally unexpected, which makes it harder to accept.  But when it comes to something like this, I had to make a decision for my long-term health.  This is something that definitely is bigger than the game of football.  I had to do what was right in the long-term."

What kind of role did your family play in the decision?

"Very little.  They were there for support.  I tried not to tell them anything until I knew exactly what was going on, and by that time, the decision had already basically been made between me and the team doc'.  They played a support role for me, but it was kind of a no-brainer."

Nick, do you think it was because of the blocking?  It sounds like this happened after your move to fullback.

"I suppose.  But once again, they described it as a condition.  I'm not sure if it was the pounding of a fullback or something that showed itself over the course of my football career."

What was the day when you got the news?  Was it yesterday that you talked to the doctor and had this conversation?

"Yes.  Yesterday I met with two doctors in the neuroscience department.  Separate from each other, they both came to the same conclusion.  Yeah, it all happened yesterday."

Had you had any symptoms walking around campus, or was it always a collision that made you symptomatic?

"It was always a collision.  It didn't affect me off the football field, which is one of the reasons I wasn't too concerned about it until playing last weekend."

I know it's hard for you to look ahead like this, but can you say something about Emeka Nnoli?  I guess you would rather be out there playing, but can you talk about the hands in which the fullback position is in right now?

"I think Emeka is going to do a great job this year.  I think everybody got to see a bit of his ability throughout training camp.  I think he is going to help this team out tremendously."

Did the doctors explain to you about the cervical narrowing in your spine - is it a certain area or a certain vertebra?

"Yes.  C-3, right in the middle of my neck...  I'm pretty sure that's the only area.  At least, that is the one they pointed out to me."

Nick, what are you majoring in and what are your plans for finishing school?

"I'm a Human Biology major with a focus on pre-med.  I'm going to graduate this June.  I'm on track to graduate.  I will probably move back home and see things out from there."

This comes on the heels of what happened with Mark Bradford.  The team has really suffered with injury this year.  Any general statement of the mindset of the team right now?  You've always been a team guy, and it seems like you all have had more than your fair share of injuries the past two years.

"Our team is going through some pretty tough things right now.  But we have shown that we can battle back from adversity, and I hope that these guys are going to keep fighting through this.  I think that they will.  I'm hoping that they aren't letting this affect them too much."

Senior wide receiver Mark Bradford

Mark, how are you holding up?

"I'm doing alright.  I'm trying to look at it as a positive.  It happened for a reason obviously.  I guess that this gives a chance to a lot of other guys to step up, and we get to see what they have.  They get a chance to show what they can do."

Can you describe how it happened?

"It was on that second play.  It was a bubble screen.  I caught the ball, and my foot went down.  It seemed like the other guy's foot came down on top of mine.  The back of my foot seemed like it came up and it torqued outward.  The front of my foot stayed in place.  Afterward, it felt like it was just not in place like it should have been.  I got up, and it didn't even seem like it was that bad.  I was going toward the huddle and took about four steps.  It didn't feel right, so I called for a sub."

When you were on the sideline, could you have ever envisioned that it would be something like this?

"I didn't actually think that it was that bad.  I thought that I was going to be able to go back into the game.  I was talking to the guys, and they were asking me questions.  I was just thinking that maybe something was out of place.  Maybe something popped out and needed to be put back in.  I was talking with Charlie [Miller], our head trainer, and he was saying how it is not one of those areas where something can pop out of place.  It just ended up being more serious than I thought."

What precisely is the extent of the damage?  It's ligament damage, but is it a tear or what exactly?  What's the diagnosis?

"They said that I tore it.  I don't know exactly which one it was, but I tore a ligament."

What have they told you thus far is the prognosis for how long you will be in the cast?  The crutches?  When might you be able to do something related to football again?

"They told me that I was going to be in the cast for about four weeks.  Then they were going to take a look at it and see how it's healing, and basically we'll go from there."

Where is the ligament - the bottom of your foot?

"It's the top."

Were you given scenarios by which you could possibly play again this year, or is the expectation that the season is done for you?

"I'm not exactly sure how long I'm going to be out.  I think there is going to maybe be a chance that I could come back this year, but I guess we'll have to see after these four weeks are up and see where I am at."

We asked Coach about it, but would you consider a redshirt situation and a fifth-year if you are not able to come back?

"If that turns out to be the case, then that is definitely something I am going to consider."

This is probably too soon, but if it is not right medically for you to come back this year, then how would you evaluate graduating and moving on in your football career versus being at Stanford again for another year?

"Wow.  I don't even know right now.  I will just have to take a look at all the things:  How well is it healing?  Am I going to be full speed?  What is the timeframe?  How things are looking for me as far as my future both ways - here or not - and just weigh the negatives and the positives."

Is this even harder because you are a senior and you guys are opening up your new stadium [Saturday]?

"Yeah, man.  It's really tough.  Senior season.  This being the second game - really early in the season.  Knowing that I am going to miss a few of those games is really tough for me to take right now, especially with all of the hard work that I put into the off-season.  I just have to take it.  Everything happens for a reason."

What has Evan Moore had to say to you about this?  He went through the same thing last year.

"Actually, I have not had too much of a chance to talk to him about it."

You said that you are trying to find the positives and that everything happens for a reason.  Are you hoping that all of those things become apparent to you at some point?

"[laughs]  That's what I was thinking.  That is one of those things that you hear all the time.  I'm just hoping that it is a blessing in disguise, somehow.  Maybe it will make me work harder in the future.  Humble me maybe.  There are a lot of things that can come out of this.  I'm hoping that I will find a way to turn it into a positive."

Are you going to be a 'Coach on Crutches' to some of these younger guys - Richard Sherman and Austin Yancy?  Are you going to try and contribute on the sidelines?

"Yeah, yeah.  I'm definitely going to contribute in every way I can, as far as helping to develop those guys.  That is something I set out to do as soon as Richard got here - just trying to make him the best player that he can be and help him out as much as I can in his development."

What were your impressions of Richard on Saturday?

"I actually didn't get to see the first half.  I went back into the locker room.  But I got to see it on film and feel like he played really well, especially that being his first real action in the serious part of a game.  I thought that he went out there and played well.  He scored a touchdown, and he was able to make a few plays out there.  I was happy for him."

What advice do you give him?  Your freshman season, you had to start in Game Three or Game Four and had to be a really big part of the offense the rest of the way.  From that perspective, what do you tell Richard?

"Man, just relax a little bit [smiles].  Take it as a big accomplishment for him to be out there right now.  Just take your time.  Practice hard to where you can adjust yourself a lot easier when it comes to gametime.  That is about it.  Don't think too much.  Just go out there and play."

Does he strike you as a guy who won't get caught up in the moment - a freshman on the big stage having to carry more of the load than he originally thought he would?

"At some point, I feel like everybody feels it, especially when you are young.  I feel like he will be able to handle it.  I think that he has prepared himself well, as far as being in the film room a lot, battling against some of the best DBs we have and just going out there and playing really hard.  I feel like he has put in the work to perform."

What is the timeline of when you got the diagnosis, when were you put into the cast?  Was this on Sunday?

"Yeah.  I got hurt on Saturday, and Sunday around 8 o'clock I was scheduled for an MRI.  I went in for the MRI and got the cast later that day."

Has the news sunk in?

"I don't really think it has yet.  I think it will probably sink in a little bit more when I'm actually out there watching everybody play."

Mark, you put in a lot of work.  At Oregon you had such a good game.  I think that you were starting to do the things that you believed you could do as a wide receiver.  What were you prepared to do this year, if you were healthy?  What do you think we could have seen from you?

"I think you guys would have seen me take my game to the next level.  Just be an All Pac-10 type of player."

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