Steve Smith will have to undergo tricky microfracture surgery on the articular cartilage injury that ended his season.
Team orthopedist Dr. Russell Warren will perform the microfracture surgery Tuesday, while also using a technique called mosaicplasty. Mosaicplasty takes millimeter-sized plugs of cartilage and underlying bone from a healthy area of the knee and implants them in the damaged area in hopes of growing new tissue. Microfracture surgery involves drilling holes through the patella to create bleeding. Once the holes scab over, the hope is that new cartilage will grow underneath it.
The Giants' wide receiver might want to consult with his teammate, safety Kenny Phillips, over the comeback procedures. If Smith is lucky, he'll be just as effective as Phillips has been since undergoing microfracture surgery for a completely different condition early last year.
Phillips' surgery was designed to correct an arthritic condition in his left knee. Though the two haven't spoken yet, there's a good chance Smith's rehab will be similar to the lengthy process Phillips went through. Smith will have to stay on crutches for six weeks before he's allowed to do anything involving jogging or running, though coach Tom Coughlin has high hopes that his most reliable receiver will be ready for at least limited work in training camp.
"I'm sure there will be restrictions," Coughlin said. "There's got to be."
Smith's surgery could take from six to nine months to rehab.
Many players are never the same after microfracture surgery, so there is no telling whether Smith will be able to get back to his Pro Bowl level of 2009. But if he does, it will be the result of arduous rehab, the likes of which Phillips undertook and will continue once the season is over.
"I still have to rehab it and do a lot of extra things," said Phillips, who resumed his fulltime spot early in the season and has played solidly, though not spectacularly. "But I'm back on the field, which I'm happy to be."
Said Coughlin, "He's worked very hard. Behind the scenes, he's done an awful lot of rehab. He's pretty much in that weight room every day."
Coughlin said doctors have predicted a full recovery for Smith. Of course, if the players and management don't come to agreement on a new CBA, or if the free agent-to-be Smith can't agree on a new contract, everything could be pushed back.
Smith was placed on injured reserve Wednesday, with TE Jake Ballard moving up from the practice squad to replace him.
For now, Smith just needs to get through the surgery and begin the long rehab process. Just like Phillips did.