Oct. 4, 2011
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Wake Forest’s BB&T Field is the perfect setting for his return. After all, it’s where his career really got started.
Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel is expected to be back in the starting lineup Saturday against the Demon Deacons in the same stadium that he earned his first college start back in 2009.
Manuel missed the Clemson game two weeks ago because of a shoulder injury he sustained in the third quarter against Oklahoma. He returned to practice Monday and, if the rest of the week goes well, Manuel will put the pads on and play in the same city that saw him earn his first win as a Seminole.
Seminoles.com Senior Writer
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“I am looking forward to getting back up at Wake Forest,” Manuel said. “They have turf so you can run fast. The receivers are looking forward to playing on that fast turf. It will be nice … also my family will be able to come to the game. It’s not very far from Virginia so it will definitely bring back some memories.”
Manuel has memories of leading FSU to a 41-28 victory in Winston-Salem on 15-of-20 passing for 221 yards and one touchdown. But he also has a new memory of his first setback during a game since he sustained an elbow injury as a freshman starting for his varsity high school football team.
That prior injury cost him two games and left him wearing an elbow brace as a budding prep star. This current ailment cost him five quarters of play.
The two injuries may have happened to different body parts and at different stages in his career, but Manuel said there is one similarity: neither did or will affect how he plays the game of football.
“If you don’t really think about it, I think it will be fine,” Manuel said. “I feel like if you are hesitant and you’re kind of laboring the injury, that’s when you hurt something else.”
Moving forward, it will be important for Manuel to do just that. If he does in fact play at Wake Forest, head coach Jimbo Fisher said on Monday that the offensive play calling won’t be limited or held back because of the threat of further injury.
Because Manuel is such a superb athlete, he brings an added dimension that FSU didn’t have last week with Clint Trickett at quarterback. The Seminoles will need Manuel to make plays with his legs and not be concerned with whether or not he may take another hit against the one-loss Demon Deacons.
“That brings another to your offense,” Fisher said about Manuel’s return. “Not that Clint [Trickett] wasn’t. It brings some athleticism back to that position. I mean, extreme athleticism.”
Because he only addresses the media during his weekly press conference and then after a game in which he finishes, Manuel hadn’t publicly commented on the injury to his left shoulder prior to Monday.
“It was kind of like a freak accident,” Manuel said. “Whenever I run I always protect myself [and] protect the ball. So, that wasn’t a problem. I think it was just the fact that when I was coming down and with a guy coming down behind on my back that’s what hurt my shoulder. It felt like my shoulder punched into the ground and my body continued to move and that’s when I got the injury.”
Manuel actually stayed on the field for three more snaps after the injury before being taken through the north-endzone tunnel at Doak Campbell Stadium to be evaluated.
Once inside, Manuel received treatment on the shoulder but the extent of the injury was not yet determined.
“When I was in the training room, I was in such pain,” Manuel said. “Getting the medicine to numb it up and all that stuff and that hurts; you can feel the stuff going into your shoulder. I don’t know if any [of the media in the room] has ever gotten one but it’s tough. Just giving it some time — 20 minutes, 30 minutes — and start throwing the ball around in the training room. [I] ran back out there as fast as I could. I don’t know if ya’ll saw me almost sprinting out there to try to get back in on the next series.”
Manuel said he wanted to re-enter the game against the Sooners but was held back by Fisher.
“Coach Fisher didn’t know how bad I was hurt and I appreciate it because he didn’t want to jeopardize my career,” Manuel said, “and didn’t want to jeopardize me for the rest of the season not knowing how bad the injury was.”
A shoulder issue is especially bothersome for a quarterback — even if the ailment is to the non-throwing side.
As a right hander, Manuel needs full range of motion on his left side for accuracy and arm-strength purposes when winding up to throw the football.
“Early on when I would try to throw, it was just the fact that it was so swollen that it would still hurt,” Manuel said. “Especially with your left arm, that’s really what you try to use for your momentum when your’e coming through on your passes and things like that. That’s probably the main reason why I wasn’t able to play. I really wasn’t able to rip when I wanted to throw a 60-yard bomb or something like that.
“After a while when the swelling subsides and the pain kind of goes away a little bit you can still tolerate a little bit of pain but when it’s swollen and tender that’s when it was the hardest for me to throw any type of passes.”
Manuel said he desperately wanted to play against Clemson but just wasn’t healthy enough to do so.
“Toward the end of the week I wasn’t progressing as fast as I wanted to,” Manuel said. “It was still hurting bad. I really couldn’t lift it up as much as I wanted to; my range of motion wasn’t great. It’s still a long season but it’s obviously a game we wanted to win [and] felt like we could have won. Clint [Trickett] still played a great game. He had a fantastic first start for a freshman. Our team played well, we just fell short. It was tough to watch, though. It was.”
What Manuel saw was an impressive performance by his understudy.
Trickett came on in relief much the same way that Manuel did several times over the past two years in place of Christian Ponder. Making his first career start, Trickett provided a glimpse at the future of FSU’s quarterback situation once Manuel’s collegiate career is complete.
Manuel remembers watching Trickett intently on the sidelines of Death Valley and even found himself calling the plays and making the same decisions that his backup was making on the field. Of course Manuel was doing those things in his head and Trickett was helping prove that he is capable of one day becoming FSU’s full-time starter.
“I was extremely happy for him,” Manuel said about Trickett. “It was a big game with big-time situations so that’s going to give him a lot of confidence to be able to perform so well in a big-time situation like that.”
Whether or not Trickett gets another chance to shine this season depends entirely on Manuel’s health.
Monday and then again on Tuesday, Manuel was back in full pads on the practice fields where he wore a gray-colored wrap on his left shoulder.
“He’s the same EJ,” senior safety Terrance Parks said. “Same competitive nature, same leadership. You can tell he’s hungry right now. He’s ready to get back out there and lead his team.”