Without question, the injury was gruesome and as severe as they've seen, but the Green Bay Packers havenít changed their minds on Derek Sherrod.
The teamís 2011 first-round pick never was able to get back onto the field for any meaningful snaps in 2012 after breaking his right leg in two places in a Week 15 matchup of his rookie season against Kansas City.
An injury of that magnitude, with the amount of nerve damage involved, has raised questions if the 6-foot-6, 321-pound tackle will be able to play again?
The Packers believe he will. Whether or not thatís in time to take part in his first offseason program remains to be seen, but offensive line coach James Campen thinks the 23-year-old still has plenty of football ahead of him.
ďI expect him to be back and competing for a spot,Ē Campen said. ďHe was just on the cusp of doing some very good things when he got hurt. It was there and unfortunately we had the injury in Kansas City and itís taken a little bit longer than we had thought to get ready, but we expect him to be back and ready to go.Ē
The Packers held out hope for as long as they possibly could this season. After spending the first nine weeks of the season on the physically unable to perform list, Sherrod gingerly worked in individual drills in November before his activation date ultimately passed.
The Packers could have used him with 2010 first-round pick Bryan Bulaga also going down with a season-ending hip injury in Week 9 against Arizona. Bulaga said the injury isnít a displacement, but rather a fracture and expects to be back for training camp.
With Bulaga and Sherrod out, the Packers started former fifth-round pick Marshall Newhouse at left tackle and switched left guard T.J. Lang to Bulagaís spot before being bailed out by undrafted rookie Don Barclay, whose quick development allowed Lang to move back to his natural position.
Both men were serviceable, but not of the same first-round potential as Bulaga or Sherrod, both of whom were seen as long-term solutions to protecting MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
So the wait on Sherrod continues much as it did in the late '90s when the Packers lost third-round pick Mike Flanagan for two seasons as he recovered from a broken tibia and fibula. He eventually won the teamís starting center spot in 2001 Ė five years after his selection Ė before playing seven more seasons.
There's no question Sherrod could use an offseason program to prepare. He missed his first because of the NFL lockout and this past year's because of the injury.
If the day comes Sherrod is able to return unabated, however, Campen doesnít expect the learning curve to be too great for the former first-round pick.
ďI donít think so with him. I donít think so with a kid like him,Ē Campen said. ďYouíre dealing with a guy who played in the SEC, a high level of football and the character of that kid. Heís doing everything he can to get on the field and heís a smart, intelligent guy. Heís not a mental error guy. He holds himself accountable. Heís an excellent teammate. He doesnít like to disappoint. Once heís cleared, I think heíll be off and running.Ē
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