Even over the telephone, the optimism in Brent Benedict's voice is not difficult to detect.
Just seven months after suffering what was described as a "catastrophic" injury to his right knee, Benedict's road to recovery no longer appears quite as bumpy as it initially did.
In an exclusive interview Thursday with UGASports, the big left tackle who signed with the Bulldogs back on Feb. 3, said his recovery is going better than his doctors ever dreamed.
"It's going really well and much quicker than they expected," Benedict said from his home in Jacksonville. "Not only has the knee itself healed like they expected it would, but the nerves, which they thought might take up to 18 months, are actually starting to heal as well. I've actually started to return ahead of schedule and I'm extremely excited about it."
But Benedict's still going to take it slow.
Not only did Benedict tear his anterior cruciate ligament, but he ruptured his posterior cruciate ligament, his meniscus and hamstring as well.
Due to the extent of the damage, Benedict isn't ready to say whether or not he'll be able to give it a go this fall.
He'd like to, but he's leaving that call to head coach Mark Richt and team trainer Ron Courson.
"I hope so, but I'll do whatever they decide as to when I'll get in there," Benedict said. "Personally, I feel I'm ready to go, but I'll obviously do whatever they say."
Meanwhile, Benedict will continue his rehabilitation.
As one might imagine, it's a pretty extensive.
Physical therapy alone runs between three and five days a week with sessions lasting up to three hours, along with weekly trips to see nerve therapist in Jacksonville, plus workouts with his personal trainer to strengthen the knee even more.
"It's really been like a fulltime job," Benedict laughed. "But I've got to do what I've got to do."
Benedict said he has one more follow-up with noted orthopedist Dr. James Andrews, sometimes during the summer.
"He's told me the knee is as solid as he could have ever expected," Benedict said. "Right now, it's just a matter of getting the nerves back and determining what braces I feel I could play with."
Assuming the nerve heals as doctors now expect, Benedict said he would eventually be able to forgo any added support, other than the standard knee braces offensive linemen are required to wear.
"The one I wear now is pretty light," Benedict said. "The one I've got now I'm able to move around in pretty well."
Benedict, who plans on joining his new teammates in Athens May 31, said he's had plenty of support.
Besides his future coaches at Georgia, Benedict has also had numerous conversations with offensive tackle Trinton Sturdivant, currently recovering from his second ACL injury.
"We've talked several times and he's a texted me a lot as well," Benedict said. "He just tells me his experiences with his recovery, things he's going through and what to expect."
Naturally, Courson keeps close tabs on Benedict as well.
"Absolutely, we talk a lot, too, and he's told me some things to do in addition to what I'm doing, different things to do to get my knee stronger," Benedict said. "When this first happened, a lot of people didn't know if I'd be able to come back, but I look at it now and I think I can eventually make a 100 percent return. It seems like a miracle."
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