How is Tavian Banks doing? Does he have a shot of making the team? I am from his home town of Bettendorf, Iowa and just wondering how he is doing.
This article was in todays paper about him.
ÃƒÂ‚Ã‚Â» More From The Times-Picayune
ROAD TO RECOVERY
Doctor after doctor told RB Tavian Banks he would never play football again after a debilitating injury in 1999, but he fought determinedly to rehab and return to form. With the Saints, he\'s ready to make a comeback.
Tuesday July 29, 2003
By Amalie Benjamin
Tavian Banks didn\'t know he had stepped out of bounds. Apparently, neither did Ray Buchanan.
It was Nov. 7, 1999, as Banks, then with the Jacksonville Jaguars, ran along the sideline after a 5-yard catch in the fourth quarter of a blowout of Atlanta. Buchanan, a cornerback for the Falcons, hit Banks hard, knocked him back out of bounds -- and out of football.
The tackle bent Banks\' left knee backward and tore his anterior cruciate ligament, his posterior cruciate ligament, his lateral collateral ligament and his hamstring. It also damaged nerves in the knee.
The injury was devastating for Banks. He listened to doctor after doctor tell him he would never play football again.
Nearly four years later, he\'s going to try to prove them wrong.
\"Every doctor and trainer told me I shouldn\'t play again. . . . I don\'t really listen to what other people have to say,\" Banks said. \"Long road. Nobody knows how long it\'s been.\"
The Saints signed Banks to a one-year contract in the spring. In his first training camp since 1999, he said he\'s taking it slowly, trying to get back into the swing of NFL football.
\"I\'ve played football so long,\" he said. \"It\'s like riding a bike, you just have to work out the kinks.\"
Banks suffered a setback Monday night at Saints camp when he pulled his hamstring. Saints coach Jim Haslett said the hamstring had bothered Banks this offseason and it was unclear on how long he would be out.
Banks knows when healthy he can contribute to the team as a third-down back and on special teams.
\"It\'s kind of hard,\" he said. \"I see guys doing well that I came in with. I could have been doing that well or even better if I didn\'t have the knee injury. Things like that happen in sports. But I feel blessed to be back this far.\"
In the early stages of his rehab, Banks had his doubts about a return. For the first nine months after the injury, he suffered from drop foot (the inability to flex his left foot upward), forcing him to wear a boot for 14 months and use a cane.
After he recovered from that setback, he began training in earnest, both in California and Florida. He recovered enough to begin running \"barely at a crawl\" at the end of 2000, he said.
For those two years, Banks kept in contact with Saints director of player personnel Rick Mueller, who had been the Jaguars\' director of college scouting when Banks was taken in the fourth round of the 1998 draft.
Even after the Jaguars released him in 2000 -- after Mueller had left to join the Saints -- Mueller spoke regularly with Banks, keeping up with the running back\'s progress. Mueller said Banks is \"such a great guy that you can only root for him\" and praised his dedication and work ethic.
\"Early, when he first got hurt, it was hard on him,\" Mueller said. \"You go from a guy who was our backup guy in Jacksonville to wondering if he\'ll ever play the game again. For the first year he really struggled.
\"Since I got here, he\'s been really excited to get back out. He said, \'I\'m going to get this. I\'m going to be ready to go.\' I think he\'s got a little chip on his shoulder. He wants to prove to everybody that he can come back and do this.\"
Mueller brought Banks in last year to work out for the Saints and nearly signed him, but the running back wasn\'t sure he was ready to return to the game.
Now he\'s sure.
Even with that confidence, it\'s rare that a football player can return to form after sustaining such a debilitating injury.
\"He tore everything and then some,\" Mueller said. \"After he sustained the injury, for the first year I thought there was no way he\'d ever be out here.\"
Running back Robert Edwards had a successful comeback from a similar knee injury, which he suffered while playing in a four-on-four beach football game at the Pro Bowl in Hawaii in February 1999.
Edwards came back for the 2002 season with the Dolphins after spending three years rehabbing the injury, which included a torn ACL, PCL and medial collateral ligament.
Across the locker room from Banks is another player with a similar story. Saints tight end Ernie Conwell tore three ligaments, the same ones as Edwards, in a 1998 game. Conwell spent 14 months rehabbing his knee and returned to the Rams late in the 1999 season.
\"It changes the way you play the game,\" Conwell said. \"When I was early in the league, I would rely more on brute strength and try to overpower certain guys. (A knee injury) makes you develop into a better player if you allow it.\"
Banks is hoping for a similar feel-good ending to his injury story.
Other than the hamstring pull, Banks\' injuries with the Saints are normal for a player who has been away from the game for three years.
\"If he can stay healthy, he has a shot,\" Haslett said.
Running backs coach Dave Atkins said Banks has a \"fair shot\" to make the team.
\"He\'s worked very hard at\" coming back, he said. \"It\'s dedication from the start. First of all you have to get over the injury and the rehab, then get back into the rhythm of football, the blocking and tackling and all the fundamentals. It\'s a tough road.\"
Mueller said Banks has looked good in the limited time he has been able to observe the running back on the field. In Sunday\'s drills, Banks broke through the line for a few big gains.
\"He was a guy that was really coming on as a player when we had him there in Jacksonville until he got hurt,\" Mueller said. \"He looks pretty good out there. I see some of the old Tavian coming back.\"
While Banks\' rehab was going smoothly in the training room, his life off the field took a bizarre turn late last year.
In November 2002, he reported to police that he had received a letter in the mail about late payments on a car, one he had not purchased.
He discovered that his former college roommate and teammate at Iowa, Richard Willock, had bought a 1999 Chrysler LHS in October 2000 using Banks\' identity as a means to obtain credit. Banks said his information also was used to buy an urban clothing store.
Willock, who was a wide receiver at Iowa from 1993 to 1997, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor identity theft on July 11 and was sentenced to 18 months probation.
Dealing with the identity theft took his focus away from his comeback for a little while, but Banks is back on target as he works through his first week of training camp.
He appears confident about making the roster.
\"It\'s going to be really great,\" he said. \"I haven\'t stepped on a field like that in four years, just about. It\'ll be really something else. Something else.\"
. . . . . . .
Amalie Benjamin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (504) 826-3405.
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