Penn State Football: Bars Eager For Return To Field, Lead, And Play In 2014
Don't tell Penn State defensive end Brad Bars how many games he has missed because of injury, he already knows.
"I've missed 28 games," Bars said on Thursday.
Most recently, Bars missed all of 2013 with an Achilles tendon injury but spent the majority of the time working with the coaching staff and in the film room.
While it's hard to imagine that injuries could ever benefit a player, Bars is coming into the 2014 season as football smart as he has ever been.
"I felt like I was going to be a huge part of the team last year and prepared myself mentally," Bars says. "I had the mindset I would go out every day and make our team better.
"Once I got hurt I looked at the big picture and said what can I do to help? I made a decision I had to contribute and help this team, right when I got injured, and I knew that if I stayed involved, there wouldn't be a transition coming back."
All that work with the coaching staff, working on special teams and helping with game plans made Bars a student of football. Much like Nittany Lion basketball player Tim Frazier felt after coming off his own achilles injury, a year working as a coach and working in the film room can really make a difference when you return to action.
"The game slows down so much and you realize this guy's good, this guy's not, you can beat him with X Y and Z moves," Bars says.
"Watching the film exposes a lot of the game that you didn't see. Head movement, feet placement, things you can focus on when you're out there. I feel like I can be a leader on defense because I've had so many defensive coordinators and understand so many different concepts. He had a lot of the schemes similar to what I've learned in the past. It translated for me."
Penn State will need Bars to contribute as much as he is able this upcoming season. The fifth year senior isn't taking part in full team drills just yet but feels healthy and ready to go when his name is called. Bars may not start this season with returning talent at both ends, but a healthy and eager veteran has never been a bad thing to have on the depth chart, especially as the season wears along.
"I believe if I can stay healthy that I don't think there's anything I can't accomplish this season. If I stay healthy I can do some pretty great things. My teammates believe in me and they've seen what I can do in practices. I have expectations of a veteran. My goals are to keep working and to keep progressing with my rehab."
Considering that Bars has spent a good amount of his college career sidelined with injury, it isn't unreasonable that he could become eligible for a sixth year. It's something Bars hopes for, but for now he's just trying to control what he can and focus on the immediate future.
"It's kind of been in the back of my mind," Bars says of a sixth year. "It's something I would like to get and it's such a long process that you have to have documentation from doctors. That takes time to get. When the coaching change, things change too. It's kind of been progressing along but there's still a lot of work done."
"Compliance is gathering information and doing their best to put together a case. I still have to get ready for this year. Just focusing on 2014 cause I know that's a definite and I don't know if my sixth year is for sure or not."