Is J.T.’s injury more serious?
Published: Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, August 24, 2010 00:08
For most of his final preseason camp, J.T. Thomas has been stuck watching from the sidelines as the senior linebacker nursed his injured neck.
Seeing the unquestioned leader of the Mountaineer defense in a green, limited-contact jersey for most of camp has raised questions of whether or not Thomas will be ready for the season opener Sept. 4 against Coastal Carolina.
Thomas has all the answers.
"I don't want anyone to get too worried or worked up," he said. "I'll be ready to go when it's time to go."
The injury isn't anything serious, according to Thomas. MRIs have repeatedly come back clear, and all Thomas says he has is a slight bruise on his neck.
West Virginia head coach Bill Stewart said Thomas is dealing with little pain.
But Mountaineer fans shouldn't let those comments completely clear their minds that Thomas is ready to play.
The injury itself may just be minor. But then again, a neck injury isn't anything to mess around with.
Even more concerning is that Stewart said it was the same injury Thomas suffered during spring camp, which caused him to miss multiple practices including the annual Gold-Blue Game.
So it may not be serious, but it is reoccurring. If you've ever had one of those continual injuries that just don't seem to go away, you can surely understand how annoying they can be.
Sure, players can still play with injuries such as those, but they usually don't at full strength. They tend to be hesitant, and with good reason.
Even once the player begins to feel comfortable again, with as dangerous and fragile as a neck injury can be, the injury will usually eventually return.
Will this be another Reed Williams-type injury that continues to reoccur throughout the remainder of the season and cause Thomas to miss time every now and then?
Thomas doesn't think so. He repeatedly emphasized he'll be fine for the season.
But, if his injury wasn't able to fully heal after nearly four months of rest during the summer, will it ever be fully cured, especially once the season starts and Thomas tries to play through it?
Thomas did play sparingly in the Mountaineers' scrimmage Saturday, which signaled the end of preseason camp, without any issues – which is a positive sign that his injury really may actually be taken care of for now.
Another "bright spot" in this scary situation is that, despite sitting out of most contact drills, Thomas isn't falling behind much, if at all.
A luxury the Mountaineer coaching staff has right now is they can keep Thomas out of drills to assure his health only because he's been around five years and won't fall behind.
Anymore, preseason camp is only a crash course for veterans like Thomas.
It may not be such a bad thing for him to watch from afar anyway.
Even sophomore quarterback Geno Smith and safety Robert Sands have been intentionally held out of practices so they could "learn from teaching."
When Williams missed time with his shoulder, he called watching from the sidelines one of the most beneficial drills he could have done.
Then, Williams took the opportunity to bring along some of the younger players by becoming a coach during practice.
Thomas has been doing the same.
"J.T. is always out there yelling and keeping us on our toes," said fellow linebacker Najee Goode.
It's a role that, for Thomas' sake, he hopefully doesn't get used to.