COLUMBUS, Ohio — Matthew Baldwin sprinkled in clues, but there’s really not much point in trying to solve the new Ohio State quarterback’s medical mystery.
Baldwin expects to be back on the field in time to participate in spring practice, and that’s just about the only thing the early enrollee wants to talk about no matter how many times he’s asked about his injured right knee. If it’s not going to be a problem in March, why stress about it in February, right?
Yes, it was painful physically and emotionally to get knocked out of the last high school game of his career with a Texas state championship on the line.
No, he isn’t going to reveal his conversations with Ohio State doctors after arriving on campus.
Yes, he was on crutches for a while with a lot of snow on the ground. No, nothing has changed when it comes to his plans to compete by March when an intriguing quarterback derby officially opens for business.
Even when Baldwin artfully dances around mentions of possible medical procedures when he arrived at Ohio State, he’s immediately able to shift the conversation by pointing out how successfully and quickly the training staff was able to get J.T. Barrett back on the field just a week after he went under the knife. If nothing else, Baldwin established in just one press conference that he doesn’t want sympathy for an injury, won’t let it be used as an excuse not to work or compete, and that he is fully intent on being on the practice field next month.
“I’m just working to get it back to 100 percent, and I’m not going to go into too many specifics,” Baldwin said. “They do a great job here of getting the guys ready to go. Like when J.T. hurt his meniscus, I think he came back in a week. So I’m not worried about it at all.
“They’re going to work with me, and I’m working hard to get it back healed.”
That Baldwin was able to get all of his exams passed in time to report early to Ohio State should only help in that rehabilitation process, while simultaneously allowing him to get started learning the playbook, meeting his new teammates and preparing for what promises to be an entertaining couple of months for the quarterbacks.
There was never any real rush for Baldwin regardless of his health, because the expectation has always been that he would be heading for a likely redshirt with Dwayne Haskins, Joe Burrow and Tate Martell all returning in the battle to replace Barrett. But there is no substitute for live practice reps. And the possibility of Baldwin being able to jump-start his development could certainly wind up being meaningful down the road even if he’s probably taking a backseat in the short-term to a projected starter like Haskins.
“I knew coming in I was going to have to compete, and that’s what’s going to happen,” Baldwin said. “But that’s what it’s about here. It’s not a bad thing, it’s welcomed. If you don’t want to compete, you shouldn’t come to Ohio State because they bring in a load of studs every year. So I’m looking forward to that in spring.
“Just being around all the guys, that will be a good bonding experience, getting to know the team more and competing against them, too. … There are high expectations because it’s a really good room. It’s a loaded-with-talent room.”
Baldwin was something of a late-blooming prospect, but he wouldn’t be in that room if Ohio State hadn’t been convinced that he had the arm talent, positional intelligence and competitive makeup to earn a spot there in the first place.
He is officially part of it now and ready to take his game back out to the field. By the time spring practice rolls around, Baldwin is expecting the knee injury to be in his rear-view mirror — and he’s already done talking about it anyway.
“Right now I’m able to throw,” he said. “Not a lot of running right now because you don’t want to rush it. It’s good that I’m not coming in right before the season in June because then you kind of have to get things going faster.
“But now we have time to develop and get better.”
How much longer will it take to be back at full strength?
Nice try, but those details aren’t up for discussion for Baldwin. He’s on the mend and aiming for spring ball, and that’s the only thing that matters.
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