Eagles coach Andy Reid mentioned during last week's NFL draft that defensive end Victor Abiamiri would not be participating in minicamps after knee surgery. Reid sidestepped specific questions about Abiamiri's injury. Asked about it again yesterday, he deferred to head athletic trainer Rick Burkholder, who met with reporters following the afternoon session.
By then, no one familiar with the ways of injury reporting in professional sports was surprised to hear Burkholder explain that Abiamiri had microfracture surgery on his left knee, which could be career-threatening, on Feb. 9. In sports, good injury news travels fast. Bad injury news follows a different timetable.
"It's a big injury," Burkholder acknowledged. "It's a thing that's knocked some guys out of playing. But plenty of people have come back and played, too. So he's got youth on his side."
This news shines a different light on the draft, in which the Eagles used two of their top three picks on defensive ends, Michigan's Brandon Graham in the first round and Washington's Daniel Te'o-Nesheim in the third, after signing free agent Darryl Tapp from Seattle.
"When we put together this roster, we knew he may not be available Opening Day," Burkholder said.
Abiamiri, 24, dogged by a litany of injuries since the Eagles drafted him 57th overall in the second round in 2007, began 2009 as the starting left defensive end, but hyperextended his knee Oct. 18 at Oakland. That injury led to his problem. Burkholder said "a divot" was knocked out of the cartilage lining Abiamiri's kneecap. Though he got back on the field Nov. 15 at San Diego and finished the season, Abiamiri experienced pain and swelling in early offseason workouts. Eventually he ended up with Dr. James Andrews in Alabama, hoping he needed only a cleanout, but knowing microfracture surgery was possible.
That's considered something of a last-chance attempt to recreate knee cartilage, where bone rubs on bone. Abiamiri won't be able to run before August, Burkholder said.
Microfracture surgery, which former Eagles tackle Jon Runyan had in February 2009, tends to be a career-ender for some older athletes. Younger players fare better, but there is no guarantee. The procedure consists of a surgeon drilling holes, creating an injury that the body tries to cover with a cartilage-like substance. That substance might ease the bone-on-bone problem, but it doesn't always last.
"I'll be all right," Abiamiri said. "I'm not too worried about it . . . It's a tough process to go through . . . The amount of time it takes to heal up is pretty extensive."
So far, Abiamiri's 29-game, four-sack career has been much less than he and the Eagles expected, perhaps because he keeps getting hurt.