Pitt football star James Conner has missed most of this season recovering from an MCL injury. But the idea of a return to the school beyond this season seems like a long-shot to many.
But according to the running back, he still hasn't yet made up his mind about the 2016 NFL Draft. According to Conner, several factors will be weighed.
"I have to talk with my family, maybe look at some rankings to see where I stand, see if I'm healthy for the combine, there's a lot of major things," Conner said. "I'm just taking it day by day and seeing what the best decision is. If I enter, I want to make sure it's right. But my knee is my No. 1 concern right now, just trying to get that as healthy as possible."
Previously, Pat Narduzzi didn't rule out a return by Conner later this year and he reiterated that stance in his weekly radio show on Wednesday.
Here's the thing. To me, Conner has to worry completely about his health, as he stated above. We're not only talking long-term health, either. He said part of his decision would come down to being healthy for the Combine. Resting up and taking things slowly would seem to give him the best chance of that. Other players have returned from MCLs midseason before, but there's still an element of risk involved. And remember, this isn't an NFL player that already has made his money - it's a kid trying to get into the NFL.
All of that said, a return late in the year wouldn't be a complete surprise, either. I actually think that if we see him return, it means his college career is all but done unless his projections are completely in the tank. I would imagine he doesn't want to end his Pitt career on an injury and coming back for a couple of games would allow him to go out healthy with his teammates. Conner working hard to get back on the field for one last time makes more sense to me than to see him hurry back only to come back next season.
I should add, too, that Conner is also saying what he has to at this point. No one would blame him if he declared he was leaving for the NFL, but there's really no reason to do that this early. If he does that then later hears that his stock has severely diminished, then what? I wouldn't expect him to say anything other than what he did in that interview.