"Just standing here, right now, my shoulder feels so much better than it has in a long time," Bailey said with the kind of smile only displayed by those who suddenly find themselves pain-free after long periods of injury. "It used to hurt all the time, but since the surgery it feels so much better."
Although Bailey is now pain-free, he's only in the first stages of rehabilitation. He will definitely miss all of spring practice, still can't raise his arm above chest level, and has a lot of work to do before he's ready to hit the field again. That's understandable, however, given the level of damage in and around his shoulder joint.
"There was some tearing in the rotator cuff, but that wasn't the major problem," Bailey explained. "The labrum (which connects the top of the humerus to the scapula) was torn completely away from the bone. Also, I have sort of a notch at the top of the shoulder, and when my arm would rotate up there, it would slide out of the socket."
A gruesome image, to be sure, but Bailey talks about it as lightly as if it were a hamburger patty slipping out from a bun. To him, it became just another part of playing, because it happened so often. It became a common site to see Bailey running off the field, arm dangling or cradled against his side, looking for the trainers to pop the joing back in place.
With the surgery, however, that should be a thing of the past.
"Everything should be locked down enough so that it can't slip out any more," the rough and tumble tight end explained. "I won't be able to raise my arm high enough to get up there where the problem is."
With successful surgery behind him, Bailey now is in a holding pattern, waiting to be cleared to begin light stretching and lifting work. No timetable has yet been set for the Gilbert, W. Va. native to start on that phase of the process, but with plenty of time before the start of his senior season, he won't be rushed to get back into the grind. Since there is no hurry to get him back on the field for spring practice, Bailey won't have to push his rehabilitation. Still, he's anxious for his senior season to commence.
"I'll be able to work enough over the summer so I'm ready to go for fall practice," he said. "I can't wait to go."