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Ferentz still baffled by rhabdo incident, hopes to move on

BY JORDAN GARRETSON | MARCH 24, 2011 7:20 AM

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Kirk Ferentz is stillpuzzled.

Two months after 13 Iowa football players were hospitalized with rhabdomyolysis, the 13th-year head coach — along with many others — is still left wondering exactly why it occurred.

The report on the incident, completed by a faculty and staff committee appointed by University of Iowa President Sally Mason, confirmed Wednesday what most suspected, linking the symptoms to a strenuous off-season workout.

Still, the committee did not find a specific cause.

“I wish it was a water fountain, water bottle, something like that. It’d be really nice to be able to pinpoint it,” Ferentz said Wednesday during a news conference prior to the team’s first spring practice. “I was not confident six, eight weeks ago that we would be able to.”

The most taxing portion of the Jan. 20 workout saw players perform 100 squats with 50 percent of their maximum lift weight. A similar workout has been done three other times during Ferentz’s tenure, he said, but obviously without any players suffering from rhabdomyolysis or similar conditions.



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Still, Ferentz iterated the exercise will not be repeated.

“We can’t unless somebody can tell us definitively that wasn’t the cause,” he said. “What’s unexplained right now is we’ve done it three other times, probably a population of between 300-350 players have gone through it without any issues. That part’s really perplexing.”

Ferentz and his staff received a blitz of criticism during the initial fallout of the incident, ranging from local media to ESPN.com’s Pat Forde. Wednesday he called such critics “drive-by shooters, if you will.”

“To throw out the term ‘barbaric,’ or somebody suggested we would have 13 transfers, things like that, those are shots from left field,” Ferentz said.

Though he and his staff were highly criticized, he said, they were “at the bottom of the food chain” as far as who the incident was most difficult for.

“It was hardest on the players affected and the parents,” he said. “My wife and I both know what it’s like to have a kid hospitalized. Your whole word stops. So I think that was the hardest part.”

All 13 student-athletes have been cleared to practice, except for Shane DiBona, though not because of rhabdomyolysis. The redshirt sophomore-to-be linebacker recently underwent shoulder surgery, and he will not participate in spring practices.

The affected players will be monitored closely in coming weeks.

“The most positive thing out of the report was — five smart people were convinced — that nobody was negligent here,” Ferentz said. “But you have to learn from what happens. And we can’t disregard what happens even though we don’t have a traceable link.”

Injuries

Several other players will miss spring practice because of injuries, most notably senior wide receiver Marvin McNutt. The 6-4, 215-pounder also had shoulder surgery.

“The good news is, those repairs have been really good,” Ferentz said. “The outcomes have been good. We expect him to be full speed in June.”

Defensive tackle Steve Bigach and safety Tanner Miller will be out after recent surgeries, though the head coach didn’t elaborate on specifics beyond classifying Bigach’s injury as “upper body.”

He also doesn’t expect redshirt freshman tight end Austin Vier to practice. The freshman tight end has recently struggled with back issues.

Fullback Brad Rogers, who was pulled from practice prior to the Insight Bowl because of a heart ailment, will remain off the field for spring as he continues to undergo cardiology tests.

On a positive note for Iowa, linebacker Tyler Nielsen is OK. Nielsen’s 2010 season ended prematurely after he suffered a neck injury.

“We’ll treat him like we would have Fred Russell (Iowa running back 2000-04) in his senior year,” Ferentz said. “He won’t do any live tackling, but he’ll be doing everything else.”


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