Newcomer Rick Kaczenski could tell Nebraska defensive tackle Chase Rome was playing hurt last season when he flipped on game film.
Defensive line coaches know the signs.
“Guys are trying to protect themselves,” said Kaczenski, who’s beginning his first season at Nebraska. “You can see by the way they position themselves, some of the angles, how they take on blocks. It was obvious that he was banged up.”
Rome, as a redshirted freshman, played the latter part of last season with a bad groin strain and a bum shoulder. The latter injury required offseason surgery, in which Rome had 12 anchors inserted to repair a torn rotator cuff.
“It was on and off between those two (injuries), trying to get that straightened out. I’m good now, though,” Rome said after Monday’s practice. “I feel better than I have in my career.”
Rome gutted through last season’s injuries for a couple of reasons. One, the defensive line was already resembling a MASH unit, what with season-ending injuries to Jared Crick and Thad Randle. And two, that’s just who Rome is.
“He’ll never use injury as an excuse. That’s what you like about the guy,” Kaczenski said.
“To play up front — especially in this league — with a significant injury, you’ve got to be a tough guy.”
The 6-foot-3, 285-pound Rome played in 10 games, finishing with 13 tackles, three of them coming in the Capital One Bowl loss to South Carolina. He had one sack, against Ohio State.
Rome missed spring practices as he recovered from shoulder surgery.
“I think the biggest advantage I had in the spring was being able to look at it from the coaches’ perspective,” Rome said. “I knew I couldn’t be involved on the field, so I wanted to be involved with the younger guys, tried to get them to learn everything they can.
“When you teach things, that’s when you really need to know it. I think that allowed me to understand my role on the defense more and what’s happening around me as opposed to what’s happening on the D-line.”
Kaczenski said Rome is playing physical and hasn’t had any issues with his past injuries.
“He might be cleared physically before camp started, but now he has to clear himself mentally. That’s his job,” Kaczenski said.
“The big thing is just getting confidence back, ‘I can play with this, I’ve got my strength back, this doesn’t affect me.’”