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March 24, 2012

Spring Practice: Mason’s Comeback

Filed under: Football,Players — Chas @ 10:55 am

This is a hell of a story. Seeing Dan Mason out there — and looking really good — is more than a little surprising.

Doctors initially told Mason it was highly doubtful he would return to play football. Mason refused to listen.

He underwent five operations and spent countless hours doing rehab, working on flexibility in his knee, cutting, strengthening and generating nerve function again. He was able to run at full speed eight months after the surgery and was able to return to the practice field last season.

But his participation was limited while he worked to regain his nerve function and he never played in a game.

“The toughest time for me was basically last football season,” he said. “I saw everybody getting ready to go out and play. I wanted to be out there, too. I wasn’t ready yet, so I had to sit back and watch. It was a hard time.”

He tried to be a coach on the field and then joined the scout team, beginning in Week 4. That allowed him to get in football shape and even take a few hits to his knee.

“It was on my mind a lot last year, and I was being cautious on what I was doing,” he said. “Now when I’m out there, I don’t even think about it. I go. I feel that good.”

That, however, is not the issue. Despite the numerous surgeries and gruesomeness of the injury, the knee is fine. It was fine last year. The issue is the nerve damage.

Damage to the peroneal nerve that still hasn’t healed.

The peroneal nerve is a branch of the sciatic nerve that wraps around the fibular head (“funny bone”) near the knee and then innervates muscles that lift the foot and toes. Damage to this nerve from injury (e.g., knee dislocation), or even surgery, may cause a foot drop. Patients have foot extension weakness, as well as numbness or pain on their shin and top of the foot. …

Unfortunately, for uncertain reasons, the peroneal nerve has a poor chance of recovery, with or without surgery. The mainstay of early treatment is physical therapy and a properly fitting, custom-made orthotic (foot splint). This orthotic is unobtrusive, and usually allows a return to normal daily activity.

Here’s a diagram of how much of an impact the peroneal nerve has on the control of your leg and foot. Wow. Just, wow.

Mason is wearing a brace over the shin to protect it, but it’s both amazing how far he comes and terrifying to think what could happen if it gets damaged once more. I’d be in terror of slipping on a step and banging my shin with that sort of damage. Mason is out there playing middle linebacker with guys diving and falling at his knee and leg.

Mason said doctors have told him they don’t know if his leg will ever be back to 100 percent again. But, he noted, “They told me I wasn’t going to be able to play football again.”

The Panthers have a new staff of coaches who did not witness the injury and have not seen how hard Mason has worked to get back on the field. It didn’t take them long to see just how intense and passionate he is.

That’s why he ascended to the starting middle linebacker spot so quickly and why he continues to serve as an inspiration to those around him, including the defensive coaches. All have said if they didn’t know his history, they’d have no idea he hasn’t played in nearly two seasons.

“I salute Dan Mason, I have fallen in love with the kid, he is tough as nails,” said Pitt defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable. “When I got here, I was told that we probably wouldn’t have him. But I’ll tell you what, he is making a lot of non-believers [into] believers. He is working extremely hard, and I pray for that kid every night that he can stay healthy and continue to improve because he loves it, he loves this game.

“I think there is still a little bit of limitation there, but I’ve never seen his head down or use it as an excuse,” Huxtable said. “And I’ve never seen any body language suggesting it might bother him.”

I mean, there is an inclination to treat this story as yet another player coming back from a season-ending surgery. But the more you learn about this injury and condition. It is an amazing story.


Good luck Dan Mason! It will be easy to root for him.

Comment by dish 03.24.12 @ 11:29 am

Good luck indeed — highly inspirational.

Comment by Matt N. 03.24.12 @ 11:36 am

I thought he was a terrific player, when he first came in, and now I know he’s much more than that. He’s inspiration to his team mates and to all of us. I wish him the best of luck and sucess in the coming season. Welcome back Dan.

Comment by Justinian 03.24.12 @ 11:41 am

It’s good to see the improvement. Look forward to seeing him on the field this year.

Comment by gdodson 03.24.12 @ 12:41 pm

Guys could it be a stretch to say our defense may be really good if everyone stays healthy?

Comment by Timmeh 03.24.12 @ 12:58 pm

Wow, what a story and what guts. Hail to Chas, Dan and Pitt.

Comment by steve1 03.24.12 @ 1:03 pm

Dan Masons story is awesome. I hope he stays injury free and can continue playing football for as long as he so desires.

Comment by Hurriquake 03.24.12 @ 2:45 pm

Comment by steve1 03.24.12 @ 5:31 pm

Mason is talent plus heart plus guts…we have needed guys like him. Well, maybe there are few truly like him.
Not only is he easy to root for, he has a mean streak.

Comment by SFPitt 03.24.12 @ 8:40 pm

Great story and to answer timmehs question, no its not a stretch. If you look at the talent that will be there, granted with little depth on the line, its not inconceivable that the defense will be lockdown. Huxtable has produced great defenses everywhere hes been with lesser talent so i dont see why that would stop now

Comment by Pk 03.25.12 @ 7:07 am

great story in Trib today by Stakey about Mason and Graham, and how intense they both are …. he interviewed both together and while Graham is more outgoing, it seems they are both very similar in their desire to not only get back on the field but excel

It seems that the most talented are not 100% this spring or not participating at all … Mason, Graham, Jacobsen, Thomas, Holley, Shanahan

Comment by wbb 03.25.12 @ 8:06 am

That is a great article and, to me, shows the outstanding leadership qualities these two young men have – even if they never open their moths at all.

Every other player on the PITT roster should sit up and take close notice of how these two comport themselves.

On a separate note: I’ll be attending Tuesday’s practice session. Is there anything in particular you guys want me to look for?

DRW – should I check to see if Mark Myers is still “slinging the ball with the best of them”?

Comment by Reed 03.25.12 @ 9:36 am

Here is a photo of what I think the brace he’s using is like as described in the article.

link to

Comment by Reed 03.25.12 @ 9:41 am

Reed, I am interested in which guys have improved most from last year, in the weight room, from maturity etc. Also, who are pushing the starters for playing time etc. Any redshirts from last year looking to breakthrough etc.

I am encouraged about Ray Vinopal and Cullen Christian, who else wants to play?

Comment by gc 03.25.12 @ 10:22 am

Reed the problem with email is how to define the question. If it is couched in sarcasim aimed at me you can forget the analysis because it would have no merit or value.

If it is a honest question about his efforts on the field I would be interested. I doubt many of us even my most ardent hecklers would argue that among Trey, Tino, and Myers, Myers is the only potential D1 QB or the the biggest bust. Tino and Trey are not busts when you consider the skills they have. They are simply playing up to their level of ability.

Comment by drw 03.25.12 @ 12:32 pm

I’d rather play Myers and go to some tier 3 bowl then play Sir Tino and go to some tier 3 bowl.

And if we miss the tier 3 or 4 bowl because of playing Myers. BIG DEAL !!

Chance of Myers winning the starting job, less than 10%. He’s not related to anyone . haha

Comment by Emel 03.25.12 @ 7:06 pm

On another note, the Tarholes lost in classic end game flop. The Obama jinx continues. Maybe they can cancel the Dem convention now, in Charlotte. lol

Comment by Emel 03.25.12 @ 7:08 pm

What’s scary and downright deplorable is if Sir Tino is handed the job again, his name will be plastered in the Pitt records books. That truly is a sham !

Comment by Emel 03.25.12 @ 7:09 pm

Reed, I will admit that I don’t know jack about what it takes to master all of the things a D1 qb must do to be successful. But I do know that one of the primary skills is throwing the ball! Well, just watching Trey, Tino, and Myers throw during pregame warmups once last year showed me that Myers throwing ability far surpassed the other two. Does not mean he knows the playbook or can run a huddle, or is a good teammate …just that he can definitely sling the ball around! Oh, and in that same warmup, just for fun Tino threw a 40 yard post 3 ft short and behind Shannahan…Guess it’s true that you play like you practice!

Comment by HbgFrank 03.25.12 @ 9:03 pm

Hail to Dan! And Hail to Pitt!

Comment by Digdug 03.25.12 @ 9:50 pm

HbgFrank – the not so secret thing is that Myers can’t throw the short and intermediate passes well enough to be the starter at QB. At least he hasn’t be able to do and reports out of camp are it is more of the same.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, unless Myers shows me something completely different when I watch practice on Tuesday, Sunseri is the better all around passer than Myers is.

The one thing Myers can do it throw the deep ball. But on regular passes his accuracy isn’t up to par.

Perhaps Myers makes a change and wins the starting job, which I doubt, but it is my belief that PITT fans have an opinion of Myers that has never been justified.

We’ll see what happens and I’ll pay lose attention when I go up on Tuesday but it may very well shake out that Sunseri is QB1 going ito summer camp.

Comment by Reed 03.25.12 @ 10:32 pm

I know it’s not fair to judge a kid from 60 seconds of video, but Pat Bostick interviewed Mark Myers for the “Insider” stuff the athletic department is putting out on YouTube. I have to say, NOT impressed. Aside from it appearing that he is at least 2″ shorter than Bostick (which would make him a lot closer to 6’0″ than 6’4″), he does not sound like someone who is supposed to command the offense and know where the other 10 people on the field are supposed to be at all times. He makes Tino sound like a Rhodes Scholar.

The Myers part is around the 12:00 mark.

link to

Comment by cnorwoodaz 03.26.12 @ 1:27 am

One thimg we know that if the staff cannot make a QB out of Myers, it is Tino’s job. Because I believe in this coaching staff, unlike Graham and his band of incompotent theives, Pitt can be competitive even with Tino.

The reason I say this is I except a tough defense and better OL because of fewer injuries and far better coaching, and one of the better backfields (assuming Graham comes back).

That said based on Reed’s assessment of the QB’s which I accept. I never played football but perhaps Tino’s inability to throw long will make it difficult for the strenght of Pitt’s offense since 9 will be in the box. Just a thought limit the passing game but play the QB that can keep the safties off the line of scrimmage. By default that would have to be Myers if the coaches can turn him on.

Comment by drw 03.26.12 @ 8:56 am

Basketball note – If anyone saw the Kansas/N.Carolina game or the Syracuse game you saw 4 6’11” centers.

If you combined all 4 they are still not close to the skill sets and strength of Adams. One video of Adams shows him making a steal at half court strating his dribblinf with his right hand crossing over to the left because he was approaching the basket from the left side and using his left hand to slam the ball.

Another video against Nolens, top rated center in country, Adams got the ball 7 ft from the right foul line at the baseline, 12 ft. from basket. He gave a fake and Nolen did not come out to contend him so he took a jump shot, excellent mechanics, swish. As you saw from the other big men they were soft, Adams certainly is not, and offensive moves limited to baby hooks, not Adams he has an array of offensive weapons including being a good foul shooter.

Comment by drw 03.26.12 @ 9:06 am

DRW – I’m not saying Myers can’t complete any of the short/intermediate passes, just that he isn’t consistent with them at all and that really is the bread and butter of a QB. Even if Sunseri’s timing with those passes is off sometimes, heaven help if he could hit a receiver in stride consistently, he’s still proven better at it than Myers so far.

On the other hand Myers has been doing very well on his deep passes and throwing to ‘a spot’ where the receiver will be down field. He got a strong arm for those kind of throws, is hitting receivers in stride and has been completing them in camp.

So another option would be for the staff not to hesitate to substitute QBs on a platoon or situation type basis. That wouldn’t hurt Sunseri IMO and while it may not be completely beneficial to Myers in long run that may not matter with Voytik coming in next season.

Besides, any work Myers can get if he doesn’t win the starting job is good for him.

I don’t know how it will shake out obviously. I’d love to see Myers grab the job and run with it but it doesn’t look like it is shaping up that way. I do think Sunseri can be a better QB than last season but I’m hesitant to think he can be much better, or more consistent, than he was in this same type offense in 2010.

Then of course your point about stacking the box is a valid one unless a miracle happens and Sunseri can throw deep all of a sudden.

Cnor – Pat Bostick is taller than people think he is. I’m 6’6″ and the conversations I’ve had with him have been pretty much eye to eye. I wouldn’t doubt if Pat jr isn’t maybe 6’5″ – at least 6’4″. Myers is a tall kid also – I think the perspective on that video is off a bit. I think he’s probably 6’3″ or 6’4″.

Comment by Reed 03.26.12 @ 9:20 am

Thanks Reed all good and valid points. As you point out it is often harder to throw the quick slant or the touch pass than the deep ball. Big arms do not necessary dictate success.

Perhaps size sometimes has an adverse effect on raw QB’s who in high school simply “aired it out” against high school secondaries. They never developed the ability to throw underneath. I would suspect like my experience in high school the quality of coaching in football at that level is hit and miss (usually miss).

Comment by drw 03.26.12 @ 11:41 am

have 7 commitments.
the one that hurts is ZAIRE who said he loved our head coach and i thought we had a real shot at.
Mcglinchy was a 6 foot 9 OT who not a lot of schools knew abought i think we gave him his first offer. but ND put the press on them and got them.

Comment by Frankcan 03.27.12 @ 8:58 am

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