Sitting on his couch at home over the holidays, Virginia Tech's Dyrell Roberts was relegated to a football role he hoped he'd never have to play — armchair quarterback.
He had no choice.
Every time he stood up, he couldn't support himself without crutches for more than a few seconds. He'd stare down at the long scar on the outside of his left thigh, a permanent reminder of his Nov. 5 emergency surgery to correct complications arising from compartment syndrome, and try to will himself to heal quicker.
Now, with more than 2 1/2 months of rehabilitation under his belt after sustaining the thigh injury Nov. 4 in Tech's 28-21 home victory against Georgia Tech, Roberts still is trying to get back to 100 percent.
"I'm doing way better than what I was at first," said Roberts, a wide receiver who graduated from Smithfield High. "I'm up walking around with no crutches and stuff.
"Nobody thought it was that big of a deal to begin with. Everybody thought it was a thigh contusion. I said 'Oh, a thigh contusion. I've had those before. That's no big deal.' Then, it turned into something else, something a lot worse."
He's not entirely optimistic about being back in time for spring practice. As a matter of fact, he's already talking about trying to be ready to go by the time Virginia Tech opens preseason practices in August.
"There's no question I'll be back next (season)," said Roberts, a junior who missed Tech's last five games this season due to the injury, but still finished third on the team with 21 catches for 303 yards and two touchdowns. "I should be ready to go some time during the summer. If not then, going into (preseason practices) I know I'll be ready."
Roberts has a lot to play for in his senior season. With 60 career receptions, he's on pace to finish among Tech's 20 best pass-catchers in school history. He's also 19 yards away from becoming Tech's career leader in kickoff return yardage.
For now, Roberts still can't do lower body workouts. He can't run. He's not even allowed to jog. His conditioning is limited to upper body weight room work and range-of-motion drills involving his lower body.
After the initial surgery, Roberts said he was in the hospital for about 10 days as doctors continued to work to relieve dangerous pressure and fluid build-up in Roberts' leg. Roberts lost about 30 pounds in November and December — most of which he said he lost during the hospital stay.
"Hospital food, man," said Roberts, who added he has regained most of the weight this month.
Roberts stayed on crutches until just after Christmas, right before the team headed to Florida for Orange Bowl preparations. He was determined to get rid of the crutches before he joined the team for the bowl trip.
"You can't walk," Roberts said. "You just can't walk at all after that surgery. You've got to bend your leg to walk, so that's why I was on crutches for so long — so I wouldn't have to bend my leg.
"It was hard sitting out all those games, especially since we were on a roll, but I had no complaints because we were winning. I was just laying in bed watching them play, but that last game [Orange Bowl] wasn't the way I wanted to see the seniors go out. Hopefully, we'll finish up better in my last season."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times