INDIANAPOLIS – When an athlete undergoes arthroscopic knee surgery, multiple weeks of recovery are typically required before that athlete can return to the field.
Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett, however, is attempting to play in Saturday’s Big Ten Championship Game just six days after having a procedure on his knee on Sunday.
During his press conference Friday previewing the Big Ten Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said Barrett resumed throwing the ball on Wednesday, returned to practice in full on Thursday and has been cleared to play on Saturday.
Meyer also acknowledged, though, that attempting to return from a knee scope after just six days is "not normal."
"It takes a rare individual to be able to (return in that time frame) because there is a pain threshold," Meyer said. "There is also, when you start talking about 15 hours a day of treatment, which is what he did, I can't say that's normal. Because it's not. I've had players have similar-type things happen, they're out two to three weeks. But he's not normal."
Meyer said he has had other players before Barrett who have been able to play less than a week removed from a knee scope, but that he has also had players who have needed more time to recover, and that recovery time can vary in each instance based on how a player’s body responds to the surgery.
"I've had a player do it before, that was scoped earlier in the week and played. And then I've had others that can't," Meyer said. "And the body has to react a certain way. And (Barrett’s) has been very positive."
In Barrett’s case, Meyer attributes his quarterback’s ability to return quickly to his toughness, referencing Ohio State’s 2014 game against Penn State, when Barrett finished the game and led the Buckeyes to an overtime despite suffering a second-degree MCL sprain.
"He's just one of the toughest human beings I've ever come across in my career," Meyer said of Barrett.
Meyer also said he doesn’t "put anything past J.T." because of how hard he sees his quarterback work in the rehabilitation process.
"Every time I walked by the training room when I got in at 6 a.m., he's there," Meyer said. "And when I go home at 6 o'clock at night, he's there."
Meyer did not want to go into specifics about Barrett’s procedure or what exactly his injury is, but according to a Thursday report from Tim May of the Columbus Dispatch, Barrett’s arthroscopic knee surgery on Sunday was to "clean up a torn meniscus." Meyer said he was not involved in the decision for Barrett to have surgery, leaving that decision to be made between the quarterback and Ohio State’s team doctor.
While Barrett has been cleared to play on Saturday against Wisconsin, Meyer did not state outright that Barrett would start against the Badgers, while he also responded affirmatively when asked whether Dwayne Haskins could be a part of Ohio State’s game plan regardless of Barrett’s health.
Will Barrett be able to start and play a full game tomorrow, or should you expect to see Haskins – who took over for Barrett in the third quarter of last Saturday’s against Michigan, and led the Buckeyes to a comeback victory – on the field?
"Those are all decisions I'm going to make tomorrow," Meyer said Friday. "We're going to have a walkthrough here in a little bit. Still having conversations with (quarterbacks coach Ryan) Day and (offensive coordinator Kevin) Wilson about it."
Meyer said the Buckeyes have had conversations about how they might have to change their offensive game plan if they need to call upon Haskins to play, but he says that while the two quarterbacks’ skill sets are different, they are "not tremendously different."
"We've had a lot of conversations about it. Conceptually, it doesn't change at all. Frequency of play calls is something that will be taken into consideration," Meyer said of how the offense could change if Haskins plays.
Assuming Barrett does play, Meyer said the Buckeyes will closely monitor his ability to run the ball and utilize him accordingly.
"It's very delicate," Meyer said. "That's something we're going to watch during the course of the game. And some game-time decisions will be made."
Outside of Barrett, Meyer said the Buckeyes are not dealing with any other injuries that will affect their game plan this week. Tuf Borland will start at middle linebacker, with Jerome Baker starting at weakside linebacker and Chris Worley starting at strongside linebacker, but Dante Booker – who started eight of Ohio State’s first nine games at strongside linebacker – is "ready to go now," Meyer said, after missing the Buckeyes’ last three games due to injuries.
Mike Weber, who initially replaced Parris Campbell on kickoff returns when Campbell missed the Iowa game due to injuries, will continue to start on kickoff returns on Saturday, Meyer said, even though Campbell is back to playing a full role in the offense at H-back.