Injury shelves Pitt's Romeus for season
Pitt defensive end Greg Romeus' traumatic senior season has taken a final, cruel twist.
Romeus, who returned from mid-September back surgery, suffered a torn ACL in his right knee at Connecticut on Thursday in his first game back in the lineup.
Romeus, the 2009 Big East co-Defensive Player of the Year, will receive a second opinion today before undergoing season-ending surgery.
"By all indications, for Greg, the year is over," coach Dave Wannstedt said. "It's very, very painful for me to stand here and say that. ... It's a tough, tough deal."
The 6-foot-6, 270-pound Romeus was injured early in the second half of Pitt's 30-28 loss at Connecticut, his first game since returning from surgery on a bulging disc that sidelined him for two months.
The torn ACL is the latest setback for Romeus in a heart-wrenching season marked by his training camp injury, the subsequent Sept. 15 surgery and, less than a week later, the death of his mother, Fanie.
"You look back over what Greg has dealt with over the past six months, personally, with his mother, to the back injury to this," Wannstedt said. "It's a shame. A real shame."
Romeus started against Connecticut - his first action since the Sept. 2 opener at Utah - and recorded three tackles in roughly 30 snaps before the noncontact injury. He was injured while rushing quarterback Zach Frazer with about 11 minutes to play in the third quarter.
"He stopped and tried to come up under the (lineman) and twisted his knee," Wannstedt said. "It's something he has done a thousand times."
Junior Brandon Lindsey, who started seven games during Romeus' absence and is tied for the Big East lead with nine sacks, will be back in the starting lineup when the Panthers (5-4, 3-1 Big East) play at South Florida (6-3, 3-2) on Saturday.
Romeus could apply for a medical waiver to return for a sixth year - "We haven't crossed that bridge yet," Wannstedt said - but will more likely rehab in preparation for the 2011 NFL Draft.
Romeus, of Coral Springs, Fla., was projected as a high-round draft pick, but the two surgeries will likely damage his stock, according to NFL Draft experts. The pro combine is in late February.
"It affects him on a couple different levels," said Mike Mayock, draft analyst for NFL Network. "Two surgeries in one year is a major red flag. From a pure draft angle, rarely do you find teams taking players coming off late-season surgery before the fourth round. It's hard to justify because you are probably not going to get production year one."
Left tackle Jason Pinkston and Romeus both arrived at Pitt in 2006. They are close friends and have roomed together for four years. Like Romeus, Pinkston lost his mother, Martha, to cancer while at Pitt.
"I play harder for him because he can't be out there," Pinkston said. "I just try to think about how this is it. I have three games left, and I've got to play hard because you don't know when your last play is going to happen."
On the loss to Connecticut:
"I felt like our players prepared well. I thought they had the right mentality and energy to go out there and win the game. But when you give up a touchdown on a kickoff and then have three other turnovers, it's very difficult to overcome that and beat anybody."
On South Florida:
"There is no room for error. This is definitely the most important game of the year."
On focus after Sunday's practice:
"I had a good feeling after we met with the players and after we walked off the field, that their attitude is where it needs to be as we get ready for this week's preparation."
On injured Greg Romeus' NFL future:
"Once he gets (his knee) taken care of, I think Greg's football reputation speaks for itself. That's not going to be an issue. I believe Greg will be playing on Sundays for a long time."
On USF's defense:
"They are very athletic from a defensive standpoint. They put pressure on the quarterback. They tackle extremely well. Athletically, they are big and strong inside, their tackles. They are athletic on the edges as far as applying pressure, and their secondary runs well."