Injured players return from Purdue setbacks
Allan Joseph | Thursday, September 13, 2012
Just two games into a grueling schedule many consider the toughest in the nation, the Irish are already fighting a spate of injuries, most of which occurred in last week’s 20-17 win over Purdue.
Safety Jamoris Slaughter, tight end Tyler Eifert, quarterback Everett Golson, defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore, receiver DaVaris Daniels, linebacker Manti Te’o, linebacker Ishaq Williams, kicker Nick Tausch and defensive lineman Sheldon Day all suffered injuries in the home opener. With Notre Dame’s “Next Man In” philosophy, however, the Irish were able to improve to 2-0.
“You have got to be ready in case anything happens,” said sophomore defensive back Matthias Farley, who replaced Slaughter. “In practice, you cannot just sit there and goof around because anybody can go down at any time on any play.
“You have to be locked into your assignments and learn as you watch and just have the confidence in practice built up.”
Sophomore kicker Kyle Brindza, who made the game-winning field goal against the Boilermakers, said “Next Man In” has been drilled into him since day one.
“People have been talking about it ever since I got here,” he said. “It’s something we all live up to and something we expect out of each other … We are all able to trust one another.”
That philosophy, in turn, helped Brindza center himself for the game-winner.
“Every time we break down we say ‘count on me’ and I was able to count on my team to get down there,” Brindza said. “It was just my turn to pay it back to them. It was just about me being able to count on myself and them to be able to count on me and have the trust in me to be able to do this.”
All injured players are expected to compete against Michigan State, one of many teams on the slate known to play a physical brand of football. Farley, however, said the schedule had little to do with injuries and everything to do with the team’s fitness.
“No one knows when someone is going to get hurt,” he said. “You can get hurt not touching anybody. It’s a tough schedule, but you can have everyone 100 percent healthy or you can get hurt at the beginning.”
Farley credited head trainer Rob Hunt and his staff with keeping the Irish healthy.
“They always want to stay on top of whatever it is,” he said. “If something is nagging or aching, we just go and communicate with them all the time – even if it is just something minor, so they know about it and can monitor it as the season progresses.”
In the bigger picture, the mild injuries opened the door for young players to get early game experience in a pressure-packed environment, which could prove to be vital down the stretch.
“Just getting the game experience is obviously a big confidence booster, and just knowing the coaches have trust to put you in is a big deal,” Farley said. “Being able to get that game experience and being so young is a huge benefit now and a huge benefit going forward.”
Irish coach Brian Kelly said he expected nothing less than the best from the next men in.
“Anytime you get contributions from so many different players, that’s what you try to prepare for,” he said. “You build your program in terms of when you get that chance and you get that opportunity; you have high expectations … Your guys are all committed to being the best they can be.”
Contact Allan Joseph at [email protected]