Russ Paine, a veteran physical therapist, has seen thousands of athletes — from pros to weekend warriors to astronauts — over his 30 years in his field.
But after rehabbing Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson last season at the IronMan Sports Medicine Institute in Houston, Paine learned a new lesson about the human spirit.
“Adrian was just a unique bird, just like a few other super-human players in past history,” said Paine, who also has worked with the NASA program, the Houston Astros and the Houston Rockets. “To be honest with you, I’m doing basically the same thing that I’ve done over my 30-year span, it’s just that Adrian had that intensity that was unbelievable.”
Paine’s latest patient, former Florida State defensive end Cornellius “Tank” Carradine, is battling back from a similar ACL surgery and plans to run for NFL scouts Saturday in Cincinnati, just four months after surgery.
He’s one of the top defensive end prospects in the NFL draft, which will be held April 25-27.
“One thing that was different with Adrian was his intensity with everything that he did,” Paine said. “I see that in Tank also. Everything that they decide to do, it’s just all the way. They’re not texting on the cellphone or googling or whatever, they are (in the gym) doing their thing.”
Carradine is one of the wild cards in the draft. If not for the injury, he likely would be a certain first-round pick. But he probably will be available when the Falcons make the 30th selection and could slide into the second round.
Carradine, who visited the Falcons’ facilities in Flowery Branch, recorded 11 sacks last season before he suffered the injury in the regular-season finale against Florida on Nov. 24. He’s been on a schedule of workouts two times per day, five days per week.
He will not be able to complete a full combine at his workout.
“I don’t think he’s going to be 100 percent by a long shot, but he’s going to run the 40 (yard dash) and do a few other things just to show them his capabilities,” Paine said. “He’s a little over four months post-op. He’s definitely not 100 percent yet, but he’s 100 percent ahead of the curve. He’s way ahead of schedule.”
Carradine plans to be ready when the regular season starts in September.
“He’ll definitely be ready to play when the season starts,” Paine said. “He’ll be about eight months post-op at that time. I think Adrian was about eight months when he started to pull competitive NFL activities.”
So much speculation swirls around Carradine because most teams in the pass-happy league need pass rushers. The Falcons are in that group.
Carradine originally committed to Illinois, but ended up at Butler (Kan.) Community College, where he had 26 sacks over two seasons. Tim Schaffner, the defensive coordinator at Butler, is not surprised that Carradine is battling back so diligently from knee surgery.
“That was one of his gifts that he’s been given, that’s been instilled in him by someone,” Schaffner said. “I’m not sure where it came from, but we didn’t have to put it in him. It was there.”
It’s clear that Carradine is highly motivated.
“My goal is to play 10 to 12 years in the NFL and be at least an eight- to nine-time Pro Bowler,” Carradine said. “I want to be a great player. I want to leave as a Hall of Famer.”
Oregon’s Dion Jordan figures to be the first pass rusher selected. He likely will be followed by BYU’s Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah, who began playing football in 2010, is extremely raw.
“Well, I hate to compare players, but he is a long, tall, big and athletic,” Giants general manager Jerry Reese said when asked to compare Ansah to Jason Pierre-Paul. “There are probably some similarities there.”
The draft also has several talented defensive tackles, including Georgia’s John Jenkins, who projects to go in the second or third round, according to nfldraftscout.com.
“There are some big guys inside, not really the pass-rush oriented guys that maybe we saw when (Ndamukong) Suh, (Gerald) McCoy and those guys came out (in 2010),” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “But still, there are some really good football players that could help.”