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Worst nightmare comes true for Batch

Jerry DiPaola
| Saturday, Aug. 14, 2004

Steelers quarterback Charlie Batch knew there was a possibility that the news would be bad when he woke up Friday morning in St. Margaret's Hospital following knee surgery.

Still, when Dr. James Bradley, the Steelers' orthopedic surgeon, told Batch that the arthroscopic procedure to remove a loose piece of cartilage from his left knee had turned into the much trickier and more serious microfracture surgery and ended his season, Batch thought, perhaps, he was dreaming.

Said Batch: "It was kind of like, 'Let me go back to sleep. You might have another answer for me when I wake up.' "

Unfortunately for Batch, the worst was true.

"It was devastating," he said. "I didn't know until I woke up."

After getting a closer look at the damage at the outset of the procedure, Bradley, who had warned Batch prior to surgery, decided to perform the microfracture at the same time to prevent a recurrence of the cartilage flaking off the bone. Without the more serious procedure, Batch said, "It would have (eventually) been bone-on-bone with no cartilage."

The result is that Batch's recovery period was pushed from three to four weeks to three to four months. The Steelers immediately put Batch on the season-ending injured reserve list and signed three-year veteran quarterback Kurt Kittner, who has been released by four teams -- the Atlanta Falcons, Cincinnati Bengals, New York Giants and New England Patriots -- since May.

Kittner, 6-foot-2, 221 pounds, traveled with the Steelers to Detroit for the preseason game tonight against the Lions, but he won't play.

Batch said he doesn't know how his knee injury occurred, but he started to feel pain Aug. 4, and it swelled the next day.

"I was thinking it was just training camp (wear and tear)," he said. "I couldn't step through on my throws, and I started to use more arm and my arm was sore."

He kept practicing through last Saturday, and earlier this week, trainers drained fluid from the knee. When the pain persisted, Batch and Bradley consulted with nationally known orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews and surgery was planned.

The immediate effect of losing Batch from the roster is that rookie No. 1 draft choice Ben Roethlisberger could win the top backup job to starting quarterback Tommy Maddox. His only competition is Brian St. Pierre, who is entering his second NFL season, and Kittner.

Also, Batch will spend the final season of his two-year Steelers contract rehabilitating his knee and enter unrestricted free agency in March.

"By the end of the season, I should be fine," he said.

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