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Graceful Swann

Cardinals' DT will return in six to eight weeks

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Posted: Thursday September 02, 1999 07:48 PM


TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -- Eric Swann, Arizona's standout defensive tackle Eric Swann recovering from major surgery on his arthritic right knee, said Thursday he hopes to be playing football again in six to eight weeks.

Breaking his long silence, Swann spoke on a telephone conference call from his home. What he said had to disappoint the Cardinals, who hoped the two-time Pro Bowl performer would be ready for the Sept. 12 opener at Philadelphia. But the rehabilitation is taking longer than originally expected.

"I'm not bothered by it," Swann said, "because I have to be 100 percent when I step back on the field and that's a fact. I can't go out there half-ready or a quarter-ready, I've got to be 100 percent. The surgery was a very aggressive surgery and sometimes it takes longer than usual."

If Swann's timetable is accurate, at the earliest he wouldn't be back until the Oct. 17 home game against Washington. Arizona has the following week off, then plays New England at home on Oct. 31.

Swann went to San Francisco on Wednesday to be examined by Dr. Richard Steadman, the noted knee specialist who performed the surgery on Dec. 7. Tests conducted by Steadman showed the strength and flexibility of the knee had increased from 50 percent to 80 percent of normal.

Swann played in seven games last season, then had surgery performed by the Cardinals' orthopedist Russell Chick. The team expected him back in a few weeks, but he was dissatisfied with the results and went to Steadman, the Colorado-based doctor who performed major surgery on Olympic gold medalist skier Picabo Street and many other noted athletes.

"It was a smart decision on my behalf," he said. "It's a personal decision and it's not against anybody else. Eric Swann has to take care of Eric Swann."

Steadman performed an unusual "microfacture" surgery designed to help regenerate cartilage growth. Swann said he had been in extreme pain and his career would have been over if he'd tried to play the remainder of last season.

"If you were to take the knee and just split it in half and look at it, there's a lot of wear and tear in the hard cartilage on the bones there," Swann said. "There were a lot of bald spots there that were actually wearing out. There were nerves hitting nerves.

"When you have a situation like that, it makes it very tender to walk around and very tender to get in the squatting position and play, because you've got a lot of grind. On top of that, you add 300-plus or 600-plus pounds of guys double-teaming you and cutting you and you've got a pretty heavy, spicy, ouchy dish, if you know what I mean."

Now, Swann said, "if things stay on course and there aren't any terrible setbacks or anything and I don't rush it, I could play another five or six years easy."

Swann hadn't spoken to reporters about his condition since before last year's first surgery. In his brief conference call, he insisted he was not bothered by the criticism he received from fans and local sports talk show hosts who thought he should have played through the pain as the Cardinals made their postseason run.

"There's an old saying that we use in football," he said. "'When you're well, you're hell. When you're hurt, you're dirt.' I'm not really moved by what people say in their comments or anything like that. People have a right to their opinions."

Swann refused to criticize the Cardinals organization.

"Overall, they've been pretty supportive," he said. "Of course, they want you on the football field. That's what they hired me to do. When you're not out there, there's always that pressure to get back out there earlier. But overall, I would say I've been pretty satisfied with the support I've received from my club."

Earlier in the day, Cardinals coach Vince Tobin said Wednesday's examination "means he's going in the right direction."

"I think, since we've come back down to the valley, the heat's helped Eric's conditioning," Tobin said. "He's continued to work at it, so I'm encouraged."

Related information
SI's Peter King: The stupid season
SI's St. Louis Rams Scouting Report
Eric Swann working hard for regular season
CNN/SI's St. Louis Rams Team Page
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