UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Senior defensive end Pete Massaro had a sack Saturday, an event that had not occurred in the past two years. He started the game, too.
Yes, Massaro was back, healthy as he can feel, contributing to Penn State after worrying he might not have such an opportunity again.
"The team has gone through some trials and, obviously, with my injuries, I have gone through some personal ones," he said. "That's all in the past now, and I'm looking to move forward and try to finish this season strong."
After practices and games, his knee aches. Not as badly as it used to, not as badly as it did the first few weeks of training camp this summer. But it's there. He calls the pain chronic, something he must manage.
The injury stems from spring 2011. He had enjoyed a fine season in '10 with 37 tackles (eight for losses) and 3.5 sacks. But in spring practice, he tore his ACL.
He missed the entire '11 season and came into this one after earning a starting defensive end spot in the spring. The pain never quite left, though. Before the opener, Massaro practiced off and on, and coach Bill O'Brien knew there was a need to monitor his repetitions.
He played against Ohio, then against Virginia, entering that game as healthy as he had felt in a long time. In the first half, he left with a shoulder injury. He had suffered a subluxation, which hurts about as much as it sounds confusing. His shoulder had separated, causing a bone bruise and tissue damage. He missed the next three games.
While he was out, Massaro did what he could to counsel the younger players, notably freshman defensive end Deion Barnes, who started in Massaro's absence and thrived with a team-high four sacks.
Barnes gave some of the credit to Massaro. It was Massaro who could watch from the sideline and advise him to how to rush the passer better. Now that Massaro is back, Barnes believes their rotation allows both to compete with more energy.
"He gets in there in certain drives and wears the offenses down," Barnes said. "And I come in fresh. So it's like coming in fresh all the time."
Massaro finished the Ohio State game with the sack and two tackles. Even if he always has to manage the pain in his knee, he is excited to be back, especially knowing that he never quit.
"It's tough," Massaro said. "It's really tough. Everybody gets injured in this sport, whether your time is when you are 22 years old like I am or 37 years old like [Ravens linebacker] Ray Lewis is, everybody gets hurt. It's just a matter of when it's going to happen, being able to deal with that stuff in years past has given me a little patience and a little bit more ability to deal with adversity like that."
Mark Dent: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter: @mdent05. First Published November 1, 2012 4:00 AM