July 22, 2014

ACLs and Futures: What to expect from Travis Benjamin and Brian Hoyer

TBenjamin3It was the middle of the winter, roughly five or six years ago, where I walked in to the gymnasium at the Brecksville recreation center with the plan of watching a few friends school some Winter League opponents in a basketball game only to find a good friend, Jeff, sprawled out on the basketball court near the intersection of the baseline and sideline, pounding on the floor while wincing in pain. A horse of a human being, Jeff had not just played, but excelled in sports through our entire adolescence. To this day, he has hit the furthest home run I’ve ever seen in a travel league game, doing so having not taken a swing in the on-deck circle; he could kick the living hell out of a soccer ball, a process aided by having tree trunks for legs; while not the fleetest of foot, he used his size in the paint to anchor the frontcourt for any basketball team. Terrific shape and still in his 20s, he had merely crumbled to the floor like a bag of bricks, his knee having given out, his anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, torn to shreds.

Returning a punt in the middle of the fourth quarter on Sunday, Cleveland Browns wide receiver Travis Benjamin took a hit and then found his body in a similar position to Jeff’s, face down on the field writing in pain. Anyone who has stood next to Benjamin will be relegated to using their hands to show you just how thin the second-year return man’s waist is—his slight frame is the reason why the Browns had, to that point, been reluctant to use the electrifying runner, a former track star at the University of Miami, as a kickoff return man. The hit Benjamin sustained was nothing out of the ordinary, but one that just so happened to occur while his knee was in an unfortunate position. The result: His ACL, torn to shreds.

Somewhere in between Travis Benjamin and Jeff, in both age and physical stature, stands Brian Hoyer. When the St. Ignatius product took to the field against the Buffalo Bills earlier this month, he was doing so as a local hero of sorts, riding a two-game win streak that had Browns fans feeling good about not just the future, but the current season as well, one which was all but despondent just weeks earlier. It was Hoyer who was selected by Rob Chudzinski, the team’s head coach, to take the reins following an injury sustained by incumbent starter Brandon Weeden—the coach cited playmaking abilities, falling just short of saying that the 28-year-old Hoyer was, despite Weeden’s abilities as a scratch golfer and well-documented foray into Major League Baseball, more athletic. It would be said athleticism that would force Hoyer to stretch a broken play into an attempt at a first down. An attempted slide would go awry. Hoyer wouldn’t see another down for the rest of the season, his ACL, you guessed it, torn to shreds.

Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson sustained a torn ACL two seasons ago only to return and break rushing records galore. Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III was the victim of a torn ACL during last season’s playoffs, the image of his knee simply folding still fresh in the minds of many, but looks like a shell of his former self. Chicago Bulls point guard Derek Rose, despite all of the Adidas commercials that painted him as making a huge comeback last season, would go on to miss all 82 games and, somewhat famously, the postseason as well due to a ACL tear suffered during the 2011-12 playoffs. Our own Craig, while not having near the medical attention of many professional athletes, had multiple ACL injuries and now runs half and full marathons. If a pattern isn’t evident by this point, it is because there isn’t one—an athlete tears one of the most fragile ligaments in the human body, has surgery to repair it, and then waits and hopes. He or she waits to walk, to rehabilitate. He or she hopes to run, to cut and, above all, return to the playing floor or field in the same shape (if not better) than when they last left.

There is no telling what will become of the injuries sustained by Hoyer or Benjamin. What is known is that if not for these two men, the outcome of the first eight weeks of football could have been very different. The field position and scoring provided by Benjamin were such that Josh Cribbs’ name was not even uttered until he decided to throw the Browns under the bus late Monday night. The only wins amassed by the Browns to date were in games that Hoyer started under center. Sure, Benjamin may not have much of a future as anything more than a return man or package-specific receiver; Hoyer, already nearing 30 and having started just one game before coming to Cleveland, was not likely to be the quarterback of this team’s future. But both men, regardless of their exact fit, got to where they were today because of their way they could read defenses and get their knees to fluidly project their bodies away from the opposition, Benjamin being able to do such at 4.3 seconds per 40-yard increment.

Jeff’s outcome was what could be considered fortunate. Not a professional athlete despite all of his “successes” within Kent State intramurals, he still plays a slew of sports, including sand volleyball in a highly competitive league. His team has actually won trips to Miami where they subsequently get their asses handed to them by men who get to play the sport year round, but the point remains—cutting and running and jumping are all activities which he’s able to do despite what happened a few years back.

Benjamin is still just 23 years old. Assuming his surgery is successful, he will begin rehabilitation in a few weeks and should hopefully be good to go come training camp next season.

Hoyer is a bit of a different story. He’s older and happens to play a position where, save for Tom Brady, ACL tears have resulted in a different player taking the field (Carson Palmer, Daunte Culpepper) upon their return.

The ACL doesn’t care about your size. It doesn’t care about your age. It doesn’t care about your position or disposition. One false move and you’re relegated to the sidelines, a walking boot and memories. For the Browns, they have to hope that both Benjamin and Hoyer fully heal with their upstart careers not skipping a beat. Peterson provides us all with hope, an extraordinary story of modern medicine coupled with the abilities of a well-trained human body. But Peterson is also the exception to the rule. The Browns just have to hope that, once the rehabilitation is complete and the cleats are re-laced, both Hoyer and Benjamin fall somewhere closer to AP than not. The league will be watching as Indianapolis’ Reggie Wayne and St. Louis’ Sam Bradford headline the list of seasons ended by ACLs this year. But back in Cleveland, for a team that needs every break it can get in order to stay afloat, losing two play-makers in the matter of three weeks…well, it sucks. For now, the team will scramble, clawing to find suitable replacements to bide time until the offseason. It will be at that point where the question marks begin to take shape.

(photo via Candice Vick)

  • Jack

    At some point, the awkward poeticisms employed here (rather heavy-handedly) cross from clumsy to irresponsible.

    ‘His ACL, torn to shreds’? Really? Are their ACLs in shreds? Or are they just torn…in one place…maybe partially…maybe completely…do you even know?

    A cursory search’n’read will reveal that Hoyer didn’t even completely tear his ACL and is expected back in 5 months’ time. Turns out his ACL wasn’t passed across a cheese grater. I don’t think we know the extent of Travis’ to date.

    Just opining, of course, but it seems like these lines add very little to the prose and border on misinformation.

  • Abe

    In the famous words of Sgt. Hulka, “Lighten up, Francis”.

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/ Scott @ WFNY

    Yeah, I’d apologize for using “shreads” for the sake of collectiveness, but at the end of the day, it’s one word out of 1,200.

    Thanks for adding to the discussion, “Jack.”

  • chris

    I am so relieved Jeff’s Intramural Career is still intact

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/ Scott @ WFNY

    Your compassion knows no bounds.

  • Garry_Owen

    “At some point, the awkward poeticisms employed here (rather heavy-handedly) cross from clumsy to irresponsible.”
    Funny. I was thinking the same thing. About THAT SENTENCE.

  • Ben Frambaugh

    Probably wrong of me to laugh at this (as I detect heavy doses of sarcasm) but I couldn’t help myself.

  • mgbode

    Just a few links to some info on ACL tears.

    Females more at risk than males for ACL injury:
    http://www.aaos.org/news/aaosnow/nov10/research3.asp

    Mayo Clinic ACL prevention techniques:
    http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/acl-injury/DS00898/DSECTION=prevention

    More risk factors (shoe-ground friction an obvious one):
    http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/45/2/e2.27.abstract

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/ Scott @ WFNY

    Awesome. Thanks, Mike.

  • arnold_palmer

    I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU DIDN’T LOOK AT THE X-RAY’S FIRST, SCOTT!

  • porckchop

    Due to my predilection for -ahem- certain risqué materials found in the nether regions of the internet my wife has set rather stringent parental controls on my computer. Hence, I am unable to make cursory searches, so I will have to take your word regarding Hoyer’s ACL.
    As far as Benjamin goes however, you admit we don’t know the extent of damage. So while we don’t know if his knee was torn to shreds we don’t not know if his knee wasn’t not torn to shreds. In fact it is highly probable and also highly improbable that his ACL doesn’t not or -oppositionally speaking- does not resemble something that has or hasn’t been passed acrossed a cheese grater. All I’m saying is – maybeish?
    Furthermore, I would like to thank you for taking Scott down a peg. For too long these fat cat journalistic types have been gouging large sums of money from all of us and what do we get in return? That’s right awkward poeticisms. Like Eloys the WFNY staff lives in a world of pure hedonistic pleasure, taking time out from their daily Rolls Royce demolition derbys and Lori Loughlin massages, occasionally attaching a story to the solid gold plume of one of their messenger peacocks and sending it down to the cavernous depths in which we toil. You sir are a Morlockian prince for having the courage to reach up and drag one of them down to our level.

  • Name

    “It was the middle of the winter, roughly five or six years ago, where I walked in to the gymnasium at the Brecksville recreation center with the plan of watching a few friends school some Winter League opponents in a basketball game only to find a good friend, Jeff, sprawled out on the basketball court near the intersection of the baseline and sideline, pounding on the floor while wincing in pain.”
    That’s the first sentence. It’s 70 words long.

  • vespo09

    What?

  • Garry_Owen

    That. Was. Awesome.
    Where have you been?
    Does your internet filter know that “WFNY” is not some kinky club in New York? It seems you have been blocked from us. Welcome back.

  • Garry_Owen

    Wait. Your name is “Mike”?
    Dang. I’ve been imagining “Murgatroid” all this time.

  • Garry_Owen

    “When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”
    That’s the first sentence. It’s like 72 words long.

  • http://www.centsports.com/?opcode=487541 c3j1v62

    I think Jack meant to say:

    “At some point, the awkward poeticisms employed here (rather heavy-handedly) cross from clumsy to irresponsible.

    Boom, roasted.”

  • mgbode

    Murgatroid is a bit clunky, no?

  • mgbode

    no problem.

    always worried about an ACL tear myself, but luckily have built up my hamstrings well (which causes them to tighten up and cause lower back pain, doh!). and, terrified of my daughter playing soccer or basketball as girls always seem to go down with knee injuries (and found the research backs it up).

  • mgbode

    he likes porn and lori loughlin.

  • lstavole13

    Yea. Murgatroid sounds so clumsy and irresponsible.

  • mgbode

    that does sound fitting for me.

  • Porckchop

    Exactly.

  • Porckchop

    Ive got a two year old and Im taking some course work to re enter the proper workforce next fall. I fought the good fight against maturity.

  • Garry_Owen

    And lost. Typical Clevelander.

  • Porckchop

    That. Was. Awesomer.

  • mgbode

    yeah, reading comprehension is apparently a lost art :)

  • Porckchop

    And yet, awkwardly poetic.

  • Garry_Owen

    Full circle, friends. THAT is how it’s done.

  • Carl Black

    Never heard of a walking boot for an ACL. Aren’t walking boots fore ankles? Seems any boot that would help an ACL would have to go all the way up the thigh to stabilize the knee. Oh well, never facts get in the way of a good story, right?