football

Meinrod not giving up on comeback

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Just a few hours after his senior season was wrecked
by injury, Matt Meinrod already was planning his
return.
The senior offensive guard, who went down with a
broken left fibula and dislocated ankle Saturday, said he thinks there's a chance he will be back
for a January bowl game. And if that doesn't work out,
his next goal would be a senior all-star game.
Regardless of when it comes, Meinrod is confident that
his comeback will be sooner rather than later. That's why he
wasn't overcome with emotion while being carted off
the field.
"I knew this wasn't going to be my last football
game," Meinrod said. "I have that much confidence in
my ability to play at the next level - be it Europe,
NFL or wherever. I'm gonna play another game."
Though this was his second consecutive season marred
by a significant injury -- he missed most of last
season with a torn ACL -- Meinrod said he refused to
get discouraged.
"I've never been the type of guy to get too high or
too low," Meinrod said on Sunday, his leg in a brace
and his body supported by crutches. "For a win, I'm
excited, but it doesn't last long. For a loss, the
same thing. Injuries are the same way. You can't sit
back and wish it didn't happen. It happens at every
level - high school, college, pro.
"It's unfortunate, but I know that part of the game.
I'm not ignorant to the fact that injuries happen.
It's happened before and it can happen again. And when
I come back from this, there's a chance that it can
happen again. That's just the way it is."
If Meinrod sounds as if he's handling the situation
well now, consider his reaction to the initial injury.
After his leg was rolled upon during a chase for a
fumble, Meinrod knew something was wrong when he felt
a burning sensation at the point of impact.
His fears were confirmed when he looked down and saw
his left knee pointed in one direction and his foot
facing another.
"I looked up to the referee and I said, 'Blow the
whistle. I broke my leg,'" Meinrod recalled. "I knew
right away."
And it was with the same businesslike approach that
the Meinrod's teammates began preparing Sunday to
tackle the rest of the season without their best
lineman.
Though FSU's coaches honored Meinrod as the team's
"top blocker" for grading out highest in each of the
Seminoles' first four games, teammates insist that FSU
has enough line depth to keep moving forward.
"We're going to miss him, but we're not really going
to miss a beat," sophomore guard Jacky Claude said.
"We're concerned a little bit, but not panicking."
Meinrod's injury came just as Florida State's offense
seemed to be taking flight. After posting 512 yards of
offense last week against Syracuse, the Seminoles
racked up 587 yards on Saturday. It marked the first
time since late in the 2000 season that Florida
State's offense recorded more than 500 yards in
consecutive games.
"It was starting to come together. It really was,"
Meinrod said. "We had almost 600 yards of offense. I
keep telling you, each week we're going to keep
getting better and better."
The Seminoles replaced Meinrod with redshirt freshman
Cornelius Lewis in the second half against Wake
Forest, but offensive line coach Mark McHale announced
Sunday that sophomore John Frady likely will start in
that spot this Saturday at Virginia.
Teammates said Lewis played well considering the
circumstances, but Frady will give the Seminoles a
veteran presence. Though most of his playing time has
come at center - including starting assignments during
his freshman year and earlier this season - he
cross-trained at guard during spring practice.
The down side of that move is that Frady also is the
Seminoles' top backup to senior center David Castillo,
who has struggled with injuries throughout his career.
"When you've got depth, you can only replenish so many
times," FSU coach Bobby Bowden said. "Now you've lost
Meinrod and you've got Castillo, who has a history of
being out. There are going to be guys who might have
to learn two positions. Frady will probably have to
play two positions."
And there's an outside chance Meinrod will return at
the end of this season. Though doctors won't have a
firm estimate on his recovery time until they examine
MRI results on Tuesday, the fifth-year senior said he
expects to be out eight to 12 weeks, which could make
him available for a bowl game.
Meinrod, who is the strongest player on FSU's roster,
has shown the ability to heal quickly. After tearing
the ACL in his right knee during the season opener
last year, he said he could have played in the Gator
Bowl less than five months later. He chose not to
because he didn't want to jeopardize his health for
his senior year.
"Last year, I had a season to look forward to,"
Meinrod said. "I don't have anything to hold back for.
This is make or break."
Meinrod said he already has accepted an invitation to
play in one senior all-star game -- the Las Vegas Bowl.
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