Injuries take toll on Rutgers after physically, mentally demanding Navy week
Although it escaped Annapolis with a win Saturday against Navy, the Rutgers football team is already feeling the effects of going up against one of the more physical teams in the country.
Sixteen Scarlet Knights litter this week’s injury report — six more than last Monday after the Penn State game.
Five Knights will be out this Saturday against Tulane, including junior running back Paul James, whom head coach Kyle Flood announced Sunday is done for the season with a torn ACL.
Six other starters are questionable: sophomore cornerback Nadir Barnwell, senior cornerback Gareef Glashen, junior tight end Tyler Kroft, sophomore right guard Chris Muller, senior linebacker Kevin Snyder and sophomore free safety Delon Stephenson.
Flood pointed to the physical and mental grind that went into preparation for Navy and has made the following week a challenge. But it’s nothing Rutgers didn’t expect to face.
“Week five of the season, every team is the country is having their depth get tested,” Flood said. “This is kind of the ebbs and flows of the season. You have to count on your depth to plug in, and then count on your coaching staff to make sure that the players that are available to you, we’re putting them in the best possible position to help us.”
Rutgers’ first bye week doesn’t come until after the sixth game Oct. 4 against Michigan. That’s the program’s longest stretch without a weekend off since 1998.
Each of the last four seasons, the Knights had their first bye week no later than after the fourth game, so no current player has experienced this type of grind before.
Still, the Knights insist it’s not something they’re worried about.
“I never really thought about it like that,” said senior left guard Kaleb Johnson. “We’re just staying focused within the game, just trying to build on each week’s performances. I actually think it’s a good thing because we keep building our momentum. Usually with a bye week, it’s almost like a break in the season where … you lose all the momentum. So right now, I feel like it’s good for us.”
Darius Hamilton isn’t looking for sympathy, either.
Openly passionate about his love for the game, the junior defensive tackle says it’s just a matter of players taking care of their bodies.
“It’s football. It’s a game you’ve played your whole life, and you know exactly what you get when you sign up,” Hamilton said. “You never count the reps at practice, you never count the days. You’re just happy to be around one another and doing what you’re doing.”
Sophomore wide receiver Andre Patton is listed probable to play this week after missing the first four games with an upper body injury.
A preseason co-starter opposite junior Leonte Carroo, the 6-foot-4 Patton suffered a freak injury when he fully extended his body on a touchdown in the second scrimmage, Flood said.
“It’s definitely a bonus to have one more guy to add to that wide receiver mix,” Flood said. “That’ll help us.”
Patton appeared in 11 games and started twice as a true freshman, catching three passes for 49 yards a touchdown.
Despite already redshirting his true freshman season, James might be eligible for a sixth season following his season-ending ACL injury.
NCAA rules state an injured student-athlete cannot have competed in more than 30 percent of the season, and James is right on the border having started the fourth game of a 13-game season with conference championships.
But right now, Rutgers is focused on Tulane.
“I’d have to talk to the medical staff about that,” Flood said. “Then what happens is you put all that paperwork together, you send that to the conference office. The conference reviews it and makes a decision. It’s really not our decision to make. We just submit the records, and the conference makes the decision. I haven’t looked into it enough yet.”
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