Talk about the kind of thing you dread seeing happen in a practice preparing for a cupcake:
Alabama's Heisman Trophy-winning tailback Mark Ingram underwent arthroscopic surgery this morning on his left knee, according to a statement by Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban.
Ingram will be out for Saturday's game against San Jose State and evaluated on a week-to-week basis after that. Alabama hosts Penn State on Sept. 11 and visits Duke on Sept. 18.
Apparently the injury happened late in practice yesterday, but there is no word just yet on the circumstances surrounding it.
The good news is that Saban made it very clear that this was a minor injury that would allow for a full recovery in a relatively short period of time. Clearly this was something that the coaching staff wanted to go ahead and get done now so Ingram would be 100% healthy once the season really got going. From that perspective, step back from the ledge here. It's a short term loss but a long-term gain in a few weeks, and it's better to see Ingram go ahead and get this taken care of now instead of fighting lingering knee issues all year long. I tend to think it is much preferable to miss some time early but get fully healthy in a few weeks than it is to have a situation like we did a year ago with Julio Jones, where he plays every week but really isn't getting back near 100% until November rolls around.
With that said, however, the Penn State game is only about eleven days away, and while it wouldn't be completely out of the question for him to return for that game, that would be an aggressive recovery schedule. The odds are probably that he misses the Penn State game altogether, or at least that Trent Richardson shoulders the bulk of the load. Until Ingram can get a bill of clean health and regains all strength in his knee, it's going to be up to Richardson, Eddie Lacy, and Demetrius Goode to carry the load. For now, I imagine that Ingram will perhaps return for the Duke game, certainly for the Arkansas game, but that he will likely miss the Penn State game.
The Penn State game looks to be the only source of concern right now. We should be able to beat both San Jose State and Duke even without the services of Ingram, and we're 26 days away from making the road trip to Fayetteville to take on Arkansas. If this injury is as minor as it has been described by Saban and various media outlets, Ingram ought to be fine and ready to go by the time we get the Hogs. Make no mistake about it, though, Richardson, Lacy, and Goode are probably going to have to get the job done against Penn State. For us to win there, they'll need to play well and the rest of the offense will need to play accordingly as well.
Update: Kleph e-mailed sports injury guru Will Carroll -- whom many of you may know from Baseball Prospectus, among other publications -- and asked him, given the information we have so far, what type of injury would produce this general recovery time frame after an arthroscopic surgery. Carroll replied as follows:
Cleaned it out -- mostly focus on the meniscus. Check the bone, maybe. It's 2-4 weeks and much more on the low end. Cain's Andrews' protege and very good.
Consider that some more good news. I don't see anything here that would indicate that this will be a long-term injury, and I expect he'll be good to go by the Arkansas game. More than anything else, the big issue here will be less about Ingram than it will be the ability of our team to cope without him in the Penn State game. I'm pretty bullish on that front, but regardless that's the question more so than anything about Ingram's recovery. By all accounts, Ingram ought to be in good shape when the meat of the schedule arrives starting in late September.