Notre Dame kept DaVaris Daniels’ season alive
BY MARK LAZERUS firstname.lastname@example.org December 29, 2012 9:54PM
DaVaris Daniels, who broke his left clavicle against Boston College, was declared good to go for the national title game. | Jonathan Daniel~Getty Images
The facts: 7:30 p.m. Jan. 7 at Sun Life Stadium, Miami Gardens, Fla.
TV: ESPN. Line: Alabama by 91/2.
Updated: January 31, 2013 6:53AM
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — When his clavicle shattered as he landed hard on his left shoulder in the Boston College end zone, Notre Dame receiver DaVaris Daniels didn’t feel much pain.
When a trainer on the sideline ran his hand across Daniels’ collarbone and noticed “something wasn’t in the right spot,” Daniels still wasn’t hurting much. Even the aftermath of surgery the next morning to fasten a metal plate to his shoulder with six screws wasn’t terribly painful for Daniels.
No, what hurt was the next couple of weeks — riding stationary bikes during practices, watching games from afar, feeling useless as his team made a run at the biggest prize in college football.
“It was hard,” Daniels said. “Even just watching practice, it was the worst. It was the worst feeling I’ve ever felt.”
Far worse than the broken clavicle — he initially thought it was just a neck stinger until his left arm started feeling heavier and heavier — that cost him the last two games of the regular season, wins against Wake Forest and USC. Of course, every injured player feels helpless on the sideline. But few players ever have had as much riding on those games as Daniels.
Based on the predicted six-week recovery time, Daniels’ future was pretty cut-and-dried. If Notre Dame won out and went to the national championship game, Daniels could play again this season. If the Irish stumbled and wound up playing on New Year’s Day instead, he couldn’t.
“I was really hoping,” Daniels said.
His wish was granted, his team won out, and Daniels returned to contact drills on Friday, finally shedding the non-contact red jersey normally reserved for quarterbacks — and finally shutting up cornerback Bennett Jackson, who had given him endless grief for wearing it.
“It was awful,” Daniels said. “I’ve never been the type of guy to shy away from contact.”
Freed from the jersey, Daniels wasted no time testing his shoulder. He took a couple of hard hits and landed on his left side several times in Friday’s and Saturday’s practices, so the hesitation is gone. And thanks to his cardio work during the layoff — combined with the interminable seven-week gap between the USC game and the championship game against Alabama on Jan. 7 — Daniels feels entirely up to speed.
Irish coach Brian Kelly declared him good to go Saturday.
“He’s a really good player who understands his reps will be based on how he practices and performs,” Kelly said. “I’m certain he’ll play a role in the game.”
That role has yet to be determined. Daniels hopes to regain his spot in the starting lineup, from which he had 25 catches for 375 yards, becoming one of Everett Golson’s favorite targets.
“I think I’m ahead of where I thought I would be,” Daniels said. “Being out for so long, I thought I’d be a little bit behind, but I’m right where I wanted to be. . . . I think the Christmas break we got really helped. Everybody got a few days off, and we all had to come back and work off the rust together.”
Daniels said he got some good advice from the training staff, which worked receiver Michael Floyd back from a similar injury in 2009. Floyd was expected to miss the rest of the regular season after the Week 3 injury, but he came back six weeks later to haul in 10 catches for 141 yards and a touchdown against Navy.
Daniels can only hope his recovery ends with similar results against Alabama.
“Sounds good,” Daniels said. “Sounds real good.”