The Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver faces an 18-month to 2-year recovery.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Cecil Shorts III has already had two knee surgeries and has at least one more to go. He’s about three months into a rehab process that is expected to take between 18 and 24 months. Oh, and there’s no guarantee that, at the end of that process, he’ll be able to play football again.
Doesn’t matter. Shorts is the one of those guys who can drive through a rainstorm and be thankful for the free car wash.
“I’m staying positive,” the former Mount Union standout said, speaking by phone from Houston on Friday. “I’m working with a really good rehab guy and I’ve got one of the better knee doctors in the nation. And I’m really enjoying spending time with my family. I get to see my wife and kids more, so that’s a positive.”
Still, Shorts is realistic. He tore the ACL, MCL and PCL in his right knee and dislocated his kneecap, a similar injury to the one suffered by Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. The difference was Bridgewater’s was a non-contact injury, while Shorts suffered his on the third offensive play of a Dec. 4 win over the San Diego Chargers.
Shorts ran a 15-yard up-and-in route, beating cornerback Trevor Williams, only to get tackled low by safety Jahleel Addae. The hit looked bad immediately, with Shorts getting carted off the field with a heavy brace on his right leg.
But while some said the injury was inadvertently caused by the NFL’s policy against hitting players high, Shorts has no problem with the tackle.
“He had no choice,” he said of Addae, who still checks in with Shorts to see how his recovery is going. “In my opinion, there was nothing he could do. Hit high or hit low, you might hurt me. He has to make a play. It’s part of the game. Nine times out of 10, if someone hits me like that, I’m fine. That one time it wasn’t right. I’m not mad at him and I don’t think you need to change any rules, honestly.
“The same thing can happen to you walking down the street. Look at Teddy Bridgewater. There was no contact and he had the same injury.”
Shorts finished the season with 11 catches for 152 yards, his lowest production since his rookie year with the Jaguars in 2011. It was his first season in Tampa Bay, which signed him after the Texans released him last summer.
Shorts, who turned 29 in December, knows he might never make it back to the NFL, but he’s not worried about that now.
“Nobody wants to go out like this,” he said. “I’m going to rehab and train like football is an option, but honestly, I don’t know. It’s been six or seven years (in the NFL) and I’ve had a lot of fun, but now I have four kids and a wife, so it puts things in perspective. When I’m done rehabbing, I’ll be 30 or 31 and I’ll have been out a year, so it’s tough to get back in. The hard thing is I’ve been doing this for seven years — longer than that, really — and you get into a routine, so it’s tough to be on crutches and not be able to do something you love.
“I know I can get into a camp somewhere (when his knee heals), so we’ll see. I’m not going to say no. It’s something to pray about.”
In the meantime, Shorts has his hands full with more than just rehab. His wife just gave birth to their fourth child, which he swears is his last.
“This is it, brother,” he said, chuckling. “No more.”
Keeping an eye on Indy
Cecil Shorts competed at the 2011 NFL combine in Indianapolis and still watches the event on NFL Network, keeping an eye on Clevelanders (he graduated from Collinwood High School) as well as the players from Toledo, since the Rockets’ former coach, Perry grad Matt Campbell, and their current coach, Jason Candle, both played at Mount Union.
“I love watching it; I’ve been watching it at least since college,” he said.
His advice to the invitees?
“Have fun with it,” he said. “It’s tough. It’s definitely not an easy experience, but I loved being on that platform, getting the opportunity to showcase what you can do at the highest level. And for anyone who doesn’t get invited, that’s all right. Only 300 guys get to go. Pro Days are important, just like the combine. It doesn’t matter as long as you make the most of your opportunities.”
Free football camp at Mount Union
Although Shorts now considers Houston home, he’ll be back in Stark County this summer when he holds a free football camp for ages 6-14 on June 26 at Mount Union.
“I wanted to do something nice for the community because they were so good to me for four or five years,” he said. “I wanted to give back.”
Shorts is still working on the details, but kids should be able to register in a few weeks, he said.
Aquinas grad Caley earns a promotion
When Patriots tight ends coach Brian Daboll was hired as Alabama’s offensive coordinator last month, it opened up a spot for Aquinas graduate Nick Caley, who spent the previous two years as an offensive assistant in New England.
Caley checked three key boxes: He was a hard worker (a requirement if you want to work for Bill Belichick), he was already on staff (Belichick likes to promote from within) and he graduated from John Carroll (the Patriots’ staff has seven full-time staffers who were former Blue Streaks, including offensive coordinator/McKinley grad Josh McDaniels).
“I’m not kidding when I say this: He’s like a future Jim Tressel,” said ScoutingOhio.com founder Mark Porter, who has known Caley for years. “He’s one of those guys who comes to work at 5 in the morning and leaves at 1 in the morning.”
Caley graduated from Aquinas in 2001 and played one year of football at Walsh before an injury ended his career. He transferred to John Carroll and became a coaching assistant, then made stops at Akron (2006-07), Auburn (2008), Iowa State (2009-11), Eastern Illinois (2012), Arkansas (2013) and Florida Atlantic (2014) before getting hired by the Patriots.
“He’s a guy who started as a GA (graduate assistant), a guy who was picking up cones at practice,” Porter said. “He’s a guy who’s put in a lot of time for nothing (financially). He has about six master’s degrees because there were places he had to be a GA to be on the staff. He’s done everything he’s had to do, including sleep in his office. He’s one of the better guys I’ve come across.”
As a side note, I tried to interview Caley this week, but the Patriots’ PR staff turned down my request. (The Patriots are like that.) I would be more irritated by this if New England wasn’t doing the world a massive public service by keeping the Steelers out of the Super Bowl most years.
Multi-sport athletes dominate combine
Speaking of the combine, the website trackingfootball.com has again tracked the number of multi-sport athletes invited to the NFL’s annual draft showcase. Of the 330 participants, 289 (87.6 percent) played more than one sport in high school.
Most competed in either track (58.5 percent) or basketball (48.8 percent). Baseball (7.6 percent), lacrosse (2.7 percent) and wrestling (2.4 percent) round out the top five.
Stark County’s top four NFL prospects all played multiple sports. Ohio State CB Gareon Conley played basketball and ran track at Massillon, Florida/Purdue QB Austin Appleby (Hoover) played basketball and baseball, Michigan S Dymonte Thomas (Marlington) played baseball and wrestled and Akron/Ohio State DE Se’Von Pittman (McKinley) played basketball.
Conley at the combine
Defensive backs will go through psychological testing today in Indianapolis, as well as bench press and team interviews. They’ll do their on-field testing on Monday. If you happen to be a combine junkie, NFL Network will provide coverage from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with a replay from 4-7.
Wilson climbs Cubs rankings
Canton South High graduate D.J. Wilson was recently named the ninth-best prospect in the Chicago Cubs’ system by Baseball America. He was 16th on the 2016 list entering spring training.
A fourth-round draft pick out of high school in 2015, Wilson spent last summer with the Eugene (Ore.) Emeralds, a Short Season Class-A team that won the Northwest League title. He batted .257 (.691 OPS) with 21 stolen bases in 64 games.
McKinley's 6-foot-1 sophomore guard Kierstan Bell is ranked as the nation's No. 8 prospect in the Class of 2019 and No. 2 at her position, according to ESPN.com.
She already has scholarship offers from several schools in the Big Ten, including Ohio State, Penn State, Indiana and Michigan State, according to Bulldogs coach Pam Davis. Connecticut, the nation's top program, has not recruited her so far, Davis said.
Bell's plan is commit after the spring of her junior year, during the AAU season. Bell made the game-winning 3-pointer in Thursday's Division I district final against Stow. The Pups will play Euclid on Tuesday night in a regional semifinal at Memorial Civic Center.
Around the NBA
Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum (GlenOak) scored 25 points in Tuesday's loss to Detroit, hitting double digits for the 50th straight game this season. He is one of just 10 NBA players to do that this season. He made it 51 straight on Thursday, scoring 18 in a win over the Thunder. ... Kings center Kosta Koufos (GlenOak) made headlines last week for a prank he played on new Sacramento guard Buddy Hield, stealing his boxers out of the locker room. Apparently, Koufos has been doing this to his Kings teammates all season. “I’m going to start calling him ‘Goofus,'” Hield told reporters. “He stole my boxers and stuff. He’s cool, though. I’m just going to buy him an extra pair.”
Mount’s Fuline to speak at luncheon club
Mount Union men’s basketball coach Mike Fuline will speak at Monday’s Hall of Fame Luncheon Club meeting at Tozzi’s on 12th. Fuline was the head coach at Jackson when the Polar Bears won a state title in boys basketball in 2010.
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