University of Wisconsin sophomore linebacker Chris Borland is not only convinced he will play next season, he vows to come back even better after suffering a season-ending injury to his left shoulder.
The UW medical staff is still seeking opinions from some of the top experts in the field. When that is completed, Borland hopes to have surgery in the next two weeks or so.
When asked Sunday if he expects to play in 2011 if surgery goes well, Borland didn't hesitate.
"Yes, absolutely," he said in his first comments to the media since getting injured against Arizona State eight days earlier. "No, I don't have any doubts."
It will be the second time Borland has undergone this surgery. He went through the same thing after his freshman year in 2009.
"It's definitely going to be similar, because it involves similar parts of my shoulder," Borland said of the surgery. "We don't know necessarily how it's going to be done."
Borland said the experts he has talked to so far suggest a success rate of 94 percent for this surgery.
"I'm pretty confident and the coaches and the program's in really good hands," he said of the medical staff. "I trust the people that are working with me."
Borland said the initial surgery was successful. He described this as a new injury.
"I don't really know the medical jargon," he said. "I know it's a new injury."
Borland injured the shoulder again in the opener against UNLV on a routine tackle. He hurt it again in the game against the Sun Devils, overrunning a tackle and reaching back with his left arm as the ballcarrier ran past.
"It caught me by surprise, the fact it happened (again)," he said. "I felt it was worse than last year. It just felt more severe. It was surprising, a little depressing, but it's just football. It happens."
UW defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Dave Doeren also put his trust in the doctors that the problem will be fixed and Borland can return as good as ever.
"Obviously, they're sending him to the best doctors in the world, trying to get this thing repaired with the best hands out there," Doeren said. "You've got to put your faith in those guys, that they can get it done. We'll see where it goes."
Borland was depressed for a couple days when he realized he was out for the season.
"At first it was tough to deal with, but that's not going to be productive for myself or the team," he said. "So, I've kind of moved on to the next stage, about getting this team better and getting myself better."
The good news for Borland is he is eligible for a medical redshirt since he played in only two games. If that request is approved by the NCAA — which is expected — he still would have three years of eligibility remaining.
"It helps that he has the year back," Doeren said. "I think in his head, if he had lost the year, it would have been a lot harder mentally than him having another year to grow."
Borland plans to do everything he can to improve mentally this season. Last year was his first playing linebacker and he didn't have much time to absorb the nuances of the position.
"My freshman year, I got great game experience," said Borland, who was named the Big Ten Conference's Freshman of the Year with five sacks, five forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. "I may have been a step behind in the mental aspect.
"So, this year, having had the game experience, it gives me a chance to not only catch up but get a step ahead in the mental aspect, almost become a player-coach of (a) sort, really step up my mental side of the game. I think it can help me if I look at it the right way."
Borland still attends practices and still goes through game plans. He plans to help out his teammates in any way he can.
"I'm staying involved," he said. "Staying in the loop helps you to stay focused and keep working."
The last time Borland had the surgery, he went through six months of rehabilitation. If he has the surgery in two weeks, that means he would be ready to come back in early April.
"Comparatively, to some things people go through, this is nothing," Borland said. "I think it might make me a better person, a better player, too."