Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Bucks' Krenzel avoids close call

Tressel reminded of Tomczak injury in 1984

The Associated Press

COLUMBUS - It was an otherwise meaningless play during an otherwise meaningless scrimmage on a steamy August afternoon.

Yet it could have dimmed or even doomed Ohio State's season before it began.

With the final minutes of Saturday's practice game sifting away, Ohio State quarterback Craig Krenzel dropped back to throw a pass.

Krenzel, the defending national champion's standout quarterback, wore a black jersey, meaning he was off limits to be tackled.

As Krenzel dropped back into the pocket and surveyed the defense, he turned a quarter-turn to the right sideline and got ready to use his buggy-whip of a right arm to pass to wide receiver Michael Jenkins. Krenzel brought the ball behind his right ear.

In the millisecond that his arm started forward to deliver the ball, defensive end Will Smith reached around on a bull rush and grabbed part of Krenzel's arm along with a handful of the quarterback's black jersey. The aborted pass squirted harmlessly into the air and fell to the ground.

Krenzel looked to the sideline, pain on his face as he leaned to his right to lengthen and straighten out his arm.

For a moment, the players and coaches all focused on Krenzel as he stood alone near midfield.

Head coach Jim Tressel felt Krenzel's pain. The thought immediately went through his mind what would happen if the Buckeyes were without their most experienced quarterback entering a season against bullies such as Washington, North Carolina State, Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan.

"That's obviously the thing you worry most about," Tressel said later.

Krenzel's arm was OK, but that didn't mean he wasn't just as concerned as Tressel was.

"(Smith's) arm got up and his wrist kind of went into my elbow as I was trying to throw," Krenzel said. "Since he hit my elbow, my arm may have hyperextended a little bit and tweaked some muscles. But I went back in and threw a couple more passes. Then I put some ice on it."

In 1984, Tressel was the quarterbacks coach at Ohio State under head coach Earle Bruce. In the team's spring game, veteran quarterback Mike Tomczak carried on a third-quarter option keeper and was submerged under a pile of tacklers. When they peeled away, Tomczak remained on the ground. He had broken his leg.

Through extensive and intensive rehab, Tomczak was able to return for the 1984 season and led the Buckeyes to a Big Ten title and a trip to the Rose Bowl.

But such an experience can linger in the mind of any coach.

"I'm sure he'll be fine," Tressel said hopefully.

He said it's a thin line between working players hard enough to get them accustomed to game conditions while also avoiding injuries.

Krenzel said the close call was no big deal. He said he would be 100 percent for the second-ranked Buckeyes' opener on Aug. 30 against No. 17 Washington.

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