Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell's knee injury is not as serious as first feared, which means he could be back on the practice field as soon as five weeks and playing in a game as soon as six weeks.
Brunell underwent a 45-minute diagnostic arthroscopy procedure yesterday morning at Jacksonville Orthopaedic Institute, and the findings were good news for the both Brunell and the Jaguars.
Brunell will not need reconstructive surgery, which would have almost certainly ended his season. Instead, he is expected to miss six to eight weeks, according to coach Tom Coughlin.
The scope revealed three things: 1)the medial collateral ligament was torn off the bone, 2)the posterior cruciate ligament had a partial tear and most importantly the anterior cruciate ligament was only stretched, not torn.
The ACL was the main concern because had it been torn, Brunell would likely have been lost for the season. The two other ligaments can be rehabbed without surgery.
Dr. Stephen Lucie, who presided over the procedure yesterday, said Brunell could be back practicing as soon as five weeks. With two preseason games, plus a bye week in the third week, it means Brunell would miss only four regular-season games if he is out of action for six weeks.
"It's great for our football team," said coach Tom Coughlin. "It certainly makes us very conscious about coming out of the blocks well. We were all happy for Mark."
"Look at the smile on my face, what do you mean how do I feel?" said Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver. "I'm excited for Mark and his family that he didn't have to go through reconstructive surgery and he's not lost for the year."
Brunell, who underwent reconstructive surgery in 1991 for a torn ACL and MCL, was not available for comment last night, but he was quoted on a statement released by the Jaguars.
"I want to say thank you to everyone for their prayers and their support," said Brunell. "I'm looking forward to getting back and competing and continue the season with the team. This is great news and it is truly a blessing."
Brunell, who believed all along that the knee was not as bad as some feared, flew in his pastor from Austin, Texas Wednesday night to help pray for good news. Brunell, a deeply religious man, said Tuesday that his faith in God would heal the injury.
"Yeah, you can consider it a miracle," said linebacker Bryan Schwartz. "It's not raising someone from the dead or anything like that. But God has done those things, so why can't he heal a knee."
Yesterday morning Brunell arrived at Alltel Stadium for a meeting with Weaver. When he walked through the door, Weaver was shocked at what he saw.
"He came walking into my office with a brace, no crutches and a smile on his face," said Weaver. "He said, `I'm going to be all right. I'm going to be fine.' He has great faith. He turned out to understand his body better than anyone."
At a little past 10 a.m., Brunell was taken to Jacksonville Orthropaedic Institute for the 45-minute procedure, which began at 11:45. At about 1:30 in the afternoon, he was helped into his truck, with his wife, Staci, by his side and whisked to his home in Ponte Vedra Beach.
About an hour later, word began to filter that Brunell's knee wasn't as bad as feared and would keep him out a maximum of eight weeks.
Coughlin received a call at about 1:15, moments before his team took the practice field, informing him that his quarterback wouldn't be lost for the season. Following the team's practice, Coughlin told the team the news about their quarterback.
"There was a deep sigh and smiles," said Coughlin. "They were all happy for Mark."
"Everybody was like `whew' all across the board," said running back Natrone Means.
Brunell will begin an intense rehabilitation today. For three weeks he will wear a thick brace, then replace that with a smaller brace for the remainder of the rehab. He may wear that brace on the field when he returns.
"Mark felt all along that the damage was not the same type of damage that occurred the first time," said Coughlin. "Dr. Lucie went to visit him at his home, and he walked up to the door without the brace on. That got everybody's hopes up."