Erik Kohler only had one question: “Why?”
Why was there a sudden pain in his knee?
Why did this have to happen on the first day of fall camp?
Why was his kneecap seemingly missing?
The junior offensive lineman was barely an hour into the first practice when his cleats caught on the turf as he took a hit from a defensive lineman. Kohler went down awkwardly, causing his knee to buckle.
He let out a scream that could be heard all around the East Practice Field.
But any pain was replaced by the shock of looking at where his kneecap used to be, and seeing that it had forcibly moved to the right.
“It was sitting on the side of my knee,” he said.
Kohler knew something was very wrong. But he didn’t panic
“It was interesting more than anything,” he said. “It’s just a weird, weird sensation seeing your kneecap on the other side of your leg. It was kind of scary. Your kneecap isn’t supposed to be there.”
Team trainers popped the knee back in place and assured Kohler it would be a two- to three-week recovery.
Still, for a guy who has battled injuries his entire career, this wasn’t something he wanted to deal with again.
“It was just like, ‘Why?’ ” he said. “I knew I could fight through it. I knew I would be back.”
And now he is.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, he participated in full-contact 11-on-11 drills for the first time. He was back on the line, battling and hitting and moving with ease.
“It felt amazing to hit somebody,” Kohler said. “I missed it so much.”
Where Kohler now fits with the offensive line isn’t certain. The first-team unit of Micah Hatchi (left tackle), Colin Tanigawa (left guard), Drew Schafer (center), James Atoe (right guard) and Ben Riva (right tackle) has worked together in Kohler’s two-week absence.
On his return to the field, Kohler took snaps at center and right guard with the first team. Last season he started every game at right tackle. UW coach Steve Sarkisian thinks Kohler will spend time at all three positions.
“He’s going to move around quite a bit,” Sarkisian said.
Kohler prefers to play guard but will play wherever coaches tell him to.
“I’m versatile,” he said. “I believe wherever they put me I will be fine.”
At practice Wednesday, linebacker Evan Zeger was in a yellow no-contact jersey with a stiff neck. … Safety Will Shamburger took reps with No. 1 defense, while senior Justin Glenn played with the second-team defense. … Kicker Travis Coons was back kicking at practice. He was 4 of 5 on his field goal attempts. … Cornerback Desmond Trufant dressed out, but got the afternoon off from team drills. True freshman Brandon Beaver got a few reps in his place. … Practices today, Friday and Saturday will be closed to the media. Sarkisian said the team will do a mock game scenario complete with a bus trip to CenturyLink Field on Friday before the Raise the Woof pep rally back on campus at the Dempsey Indoor email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports