Defensive tackle Mike Patterson will not participate in this year's Training Camp after an X-ray and CT scan revealed that the 28-year-old is not fully healed following January brain surgery to repair an arteriovenous malformation (AVM).
Following the surgery, the expectation was that Patterson would need six months of recovery time, putting him right on schedule for Training Camp. But last week, the results of Patterson's X-ray and CT scan were sent to Dr. Robert Spetzler, the surgeon who performed the surgery, and Spetzler, in conjunction with the Eagles' medical staff and Patterson's agents, decided that the prudent decision would be to let Patterson continue healing.
"I think what the physician wanted to see was how the healing was with the cranium where they took the piece of the skull away to do the procedure," said head athletic trainer Rick Burkholder. "He wasn't totally happy with it. He said he liked the healing, but he's concerned about some very small situations that (Patterson) can into in football, so right now he's going to hold off.
"We thought he would be ready because today is six months since the surgery, and he's not. That's just what happens with healing, everybody heals differently. We anticipate that he'll up fully and be back playing again, it's just not today."
Patterson will be placed on the Reserve/non-football list for now, but will stay at Lehigh with his teammates to continue rehabbing with strength and conditioning coach Barry Rubin. Patterson is also allowed to participate in team meetings.
"I think he wants to be with teammates, but he also wants to be out on the field safely as we all do," said Burkholder of Patterson. "I think he's comfortable with the decision. I think his desire to play is great, but he's comfortable with the decision. We all anticipate, I think coach told you, we thought he'd be ready for this camp, and Mike did too, but we also knew there was a chance that he may not be ready and that's what happened. Nobody's alarmed by it. I think that Mike's disappointed, only because he had set this week as his goal. He understands."
Indeed, Patterson expressed disappointment after the news broke that he won't be allowed to don the pads once Training Camp gets underway.
"It kind of threw me off because I thought I could be ready right now and able to practice," he said, "But when (Dr. Spetzler) looked at it, he just felt more comfortable if I just wait a little longer.
"I'm here right now. All the procedures are done, it's just healing right now, so that's the good thing about it. Once it's over, it'll be over and I can continue and not have to worry about any of this."
Both Burkholder and Patterson assuaged any concerns that the injury could be career-threatening for the former first-round draft pick.
"I think we're all optimistic that he's going to play again, it's just not today," said Burkholder.
"I have no doubt in my mind," said Patterson. "At one point in time, I feel like I'll be out here."
Meanwhile, from a football standpoint, the Eagles are well suited to soften the blow of Patterson's sidelining. Three quality veterans return at defensive tackle in Cullen Jenkins, Derek Landri and Antonio Dixon, and they're joined by first-round pick Fletcher Cox.
"I think coming into it, with Mike's situation, with the doctor that did the surgery, that it would take six months for recovery," said head coach Andy Reid. "So that's how we planned it, but at the same time, we took precautionary measures, and we made sure that was a position we didn't come up short with. So I think when you look at the players that we have there, there are players that were with us last year that contributed, then we added a couple new players in there, Cox being one of them and the primary one, that can help us out. So I think as you look at the position, even when you take Michael out of it, you're still looking at a strong position. I think we're going to be okay there."
Reid expressed that because of the team's rotation at defensive tackle, the top four players at the position are really considered starters (Cedric Thornton, who spent last season on the Eagles' practice squad, as well as Ollie Ogbu, who spent 2011 with the Indianapolis Colts practice squad, and rookie free agent Frank Trotter round out the position as of now). However, the expectation is that Cox will make a difference as a rookie.
"First-round picks, you expect a lot out of," said Reid. "We've had success there (with first-round pick defensive tackles), Mike Patterson being one of them, Corey Simon being another. We've had success with that position and guys playing early. So I would anticipate that when he's in there, he'll be working with the ones and doing that bit."
As for Patterson's timetable, Burkholder said there's no way to know when the team should expect Patterson back on the field.
"We're talking about this preseason as a month, and then we'll evaluate from there, but it could be a couple months or more," Burkholder said. "Like I said, nobody knows how everybody heals."
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