Elliot Goode returned to the playing field last week at Arizona and played four plays on Wisconsin's punt team, completing a swift return after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament during spring workouts.
The Badgers' medical staff, Goode said, "Were surprised by my progression, so I thought that was good. At least I've got that going for me."
Goode had plenty going for him heading into last spring. After bouncing around to different linebacker positions and playing here and there as a reserve and on special teams, Goode was penciled in as the replacement for Jeff Mack at middle linebacker.
The knee injury, though, opened the door for Reggie Cribbs, who took command of the position and is currently Wisconsin's leading tackler.
"Before the injury, I had high hopes for the season," Goode said. "Part of the rehab is just the frustration that you can't really do anything, so it's definitely a setback. You've just got to keep your head up and… As hard as it is, you've got to have patience to get back in there and just keep doing your things and do things right so the coaches will actually believe in you and trust you when you're in there."
"The power of the mind is a great thing," defensive coordinator and co-linebackers coach Bret Bielema said. "He has really been conscious about thinking healthy thoughts and getting himself back as fast as he can."
After transitioning from weakside to middle backer during spring workouts Goode is currently practicing at each position to provide Wisconsin with additional depth behind mike starter Cribbs and will starter Dontez Sanders. He is cleared medically for full game action but has to earn additional playing time all over again.
"Right now I feel like I'm kind of low down there [on the depth chart] and I just want to keep working my way up to being a huge contributor for the team," Goode said. "So we can get to where our team goals are."
"We knew we wanted to get him in on special teams and get him used to running around out there," Bielema said. "He did a good job and is sitting in a position to get himself on the field right now."
The Badgers have not been hesitant to rotate their linebackers. Paul Joran has spelled sam starter Mark Zalewski a few series each game and LaMarr Watkins has done the same for Cribbs in the middle. True freshman Andy Crooks took three snaps at mike last week; his role will likely expand as the season progresses.
"The major thing I want to do is just contribute in any field and any phase that I can," Goode said. "It just felt good to be able to contribute finally, after missing [two] games and a whole bunch of practices in the summer. It definitely felt good to get back in there."
Goode injured his knee on the first day of full pads work last spring.
"We had a full-padded practice and it was a scrimmage so it was all-out, all tackling," Good said. "I was coming in to help Zalewski on a flare, tackling one of the fullbacks and I came in and he was going down so I stepped out of the way because I didn't want him hitting my knees… as I stepped out of the way, my foot caught in the turf and my whole body just kept twisting and it just popped. I didn't think anything of it because I didn't feel it and it didn't hurt so I played the next play. But then I was running around and I could feel my knee moving around and I was like, ‘Something's not right.' So I came off and they told me the unfortunate news."
Goode dressed in partial pads for much of fall training camp and did as much work in drills and 7-on-7 sessions as his knee could handle.
"I know after the first couple of practices the knee was just like ‘Oh, I've got to take a break here,'" Goode said. "It was telling me…'step back a little bit because you are pushing a little to much.'
"It hasn't really bothered me since."
Goode said the knee felt fine following his limited action last week.
"It's been feeling good for a while," he said. "I haven't had many complications with it."
Goode news at linebacker
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