Some clarity on injured Michigan defensive lineman Rashan Gary came from an unexpected source: Gary’s mother.
Like many college coaches, Jim Harbaugh is notoriously cagey about injuries. He said Monday he didn’t know whether the shoulder injury Gary has been dealing with is season-ending. Gary has missed the last three games.
“I don’t know,” Harbaugh told reporters at his weekly press conference. “He’s made progress. He practiced last week, but he didn’t feel like he could play in the game, so that was the decision made not to play in the game.”
Gary, a junior, is a top NFL prospect, much like Ohio State’s Nick Bosa. Last week, Bosa decided to withdraw from school in order to rehab a core muscle injury and get ready for the NFL. Michigan fans were beginning to wonder if Gary may do the same.
‘He never had a chance to rest’
Gary originally hurt the shoulder before the season began, but played through September until a fall during the Sept. 29 Northwestern game made things worse. In a Facebook post, Gary’s mother, Jennifer Coney-Shepherd, explained that her son is doing everything he can to return to the field.
“He got hurt a week before the Notre Dame game, However, he decided that he could play through it and rehab during the week,” Coney-Shepherd wrote. “However, at UM it’s all or nothing and daily practice is just like a game, so he never had the chance to rest. Instead of getting better it got worse. Then the last game he played he fell on it and the pain was unbearable.”
She said Gary was potentially facing surgery down the line if he did not rest the injury for four to six weeks, so that’s the course he is taking. Her son is now “feeling so much better.”
“To play before that time would be detrimental to himself and a disservice to his teammates. So why would people say he’s quitting football because he has to heal?” she wrote. “My son is and always will be a warrior. My son is a Wolverine! He has pride in himself, his team and his academics and until Michigan plays their last game he will be a part of the team. He will, however, not participate until he is fully recovered. Now that you know, there’s no need for rumors or speculation.”
Even without Gary, Michigan has risen to No. 1 in total defense
Even without Gary in the lineup, the Michigan defense has thrived. The Wolverines now rank first nationally in total defense (220 yards per game) after Saturday’s dominant 21-7 victory over rival Michigan State. Michigan, ranked No. 5 in the country, currently has a bye before hosting No. 17 Penn State at Michigan Stadium on Nov. 3.
“We’re trying desperately to get Rashan Gary back. We’ll see where that takes us with the bye week looking down the barrel. We’ll see if we can get that young man healthy,” defensive coordinator Don Brown said Tuesday.
The absence of Gary has allowed Brown to work other players in for significant snaps. Brown was complimentary of Kwity Paye, Carlo Kemp, Bryan Mone and, of course, flamboyant defensive end Chase Winovich, who leads the team with 11 tackles for loss.
“Chase Winovich is a crazy man who just plays with his hair on fire all the time. I think he has a tremendous effect on our football team because of his energy level,” Brown said.
Once Gary returns to the field, Brown said, the speed of the Michigan defense will only increase.
“Kwity Paye, we’ve done so many things with him along the front. We can move him inside, and it certainly just makes us a faster front,” Brown said. “We can kind of adapt. If people want to go big, we can get big. If teams went to get into 11-personnel and spread us out, we can go fast with them. It gives us another positive option and another tweak we can present to opposing offenses.”
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