Rebels’ Bradford returns after 2003 ACL surgery

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 5, 2004

NATCHEZ &045; Cole Bradford could feel it, didn’t know what it was but had a feeling whatever it was wasn’t good.

In situations like these athletes immediately think of the worst-case scenario, and this time it was about right on the money. The Adams Christian sophomore had to be helped off the field last Sept. 26 at Hillcrest Christian after jumping in to make a tackle.

It couldn’t have been good.

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&uot;I don’t know how it happened,&uot; Bradford recalled. &uot;It was just stupid. I knew something was wrong, but I wasn’t sure.&uot;

It wasn’t good. The budding sophomore standout for the Rebels had suffered a torn ACL injury on the play, and it sacked not only his season but also his baseball season in the spring.

The injury put him out until the start of summer baseball in June, and even then the normally quick Bradford was running as if he had a piano on his back.

Now he’s back in pads with the Rebels as the team went in full gear for the first time on Monday one week after starting football workouts.

&uot;I think he’s come a long way since (last) Monday, I really do,&uot; AC head coach Keith Walters said. &uot;If I had to say, he’s probably about 70 percent. He ran about 4.5 or 4.6 range (in the 40), and he might have been a little faster than that. I think he’ll get back there.&uot;

That’s Bradford’s goal, but right now the junior is still in the transition of trying to move on following the injury. He worked out Monday with a brace on the knee &045; he played all summer with the brace as well &045; and is still getting used to running with it.

&uot;I don’t like it,&uot; he said. &uot;I’ve got to take it easy. I hate it. I wish it would have never happened.&uot;

It’s the recovery process right now Bradford is enduring. He underwent surgery the month after the injury and started the rehabilitation process the following fall and next spring.

He spent three months rehabbing the knee, mostly hitting the weight room and getting the knee back in shape.

&uot;It was something I had to do,&uot; Bradford said. &uot;I’m getting back to where I was, I think. I hadn’t run a 40 in a long time. (It’s sore) right after practice. I think it’s mainly scar tissue that’s hurting.&uot;

Then there’s the mental side of the recovery process. As a running back, Bradford remains a little reluctant to really cut on the knee and go full steam, and coaches have kept his touches on offensive drills to a minimum.

Bradford will also play in the secondary for the Rebels, a position the team may depend on him more than in the backfield.

&uot;He’s a little bit tentative on it, and that’s a part of it,&uot; Walters said. &uot;That’s what the surgeon told him &045; he’ll progress at his own pace. He’s not there yet. He’s got a ways to go. They really have come a long way with (ACL repair).

&uot;Cole is a tough kid. We really missed him after he got hurt. He really covered a lot of mistakes back there.&uot;

So far in workouts Bradford has not taken many snaps out of the backfield, due in part to his recovery as well as the different personnel the Rebels will have this year. With the luxury of two quarterbacks, Dustin Case can move to the tailback when Timmy Foster moves to quarterback. And the Rebels also have the luxury of a couple fullbacks to run the ball.

Bradford may see more action on defense in the secondary, particularly at safety.

&uot;I think he’ll be more comfortable playing free safety back there, even though that’s where he got hurt,&uot; Walters said. &uot;I think that’s where he’s most comfortable. Defense is where we’ve got to get better. That’s really where we want him to play for sure.

&uot;We’ll spread it around (on offense). We feel we’ve got some running backs who can run it. I don’t know if anybody will touch it 20 times a game.&uot;

That may be fine for Bradford, who is definitely not rushing into anything in football. Walters pointed out his effectiveness on defense last year rather quickly &045; the Rebels were 4-1 until the Hillcrest game and did not win another game for the remainder of the season.

The wins early, however, were enough to get the Rebels into the playoffs. That gives Bradford and the remainder of the squad a little motivation to try to do a little better this fall.

The Rebels open the season Aug. 19 against Centreville

&uot;I just need to let it out, but I’m scared to,&uot; Bradford said. &uot;I’ve been running (the ball) a little bit but not a lot. But that’s what I’m hoping for &045; midway through. If not, oh well. I’ve always got next year.&uot;