CSN Exclusive: One-on-one with Bryce Harper
Bryce Harper is close to being cleared by doctors as he continues to recover from bursitis in his left knee, an ailment that has kept him out since May 26. If all goes well over the next few days, he should be on track to make a rehab assignment and then join the Nationals in the near future.
Harper spoke at length about his recovery in a one-on-one interview with CSN’s Nats Insider Mark Zuckerman on Thursday, discussing his road back and his high-profile appointment with Dr. James Andrews.
Harper said he is trying to be patient with his recovery, as playing too hard and too soon helped aggravate the injury in late May. For now he is taking his rehab day by day and following his doctor’s orders as best he can.
“Knowing I can help this team out every single day I go out there on that field, it’s hard,” he said. “But we have a lot of great guys on our team, it’s a process of trying to be out there. I need to do things the right way, treat my rehab the right way and if I feel something that I don’t feel is right, then I’m not going to go back out there.”
Harper was resistant to taking time off back in May, denying the pain and the fact that he may actually need a stint on the disabled list. After aggravating the knee against the Phillies on May 26, he said he would tell the training staff to go away if they tried to talk to him during a game.
But now, having been out almost a month, Harper has realized what is best for him, that he needs to wait until he is 100 percent before coming back.
“I see how I feel every day I wake up in the morning. If it’s sore then I do less and if I feel good then I do more,” he said.
“Of course I want to be out there and play for my team. I love being out there, I love playing this game of baseball. It’s hard sitting there, but like I said before, I’m going to take it day by day. See where I’m at and go from there.”
Harper was diagnosed with left knee bursitis on May 27, but experienced a setback just over a week later. The Nationals decided to send him to Dr. James Andrews for a second opinion, news that sent shockwaves through the sports world. But despite Andrews’ notoriety, the move was part of the team’s protocol.
Team Medical Director Wiemi Duogiuh sat Harper down before the visit and told him there was no reason to fear the worst. There was no structural damage in the knee and this was more a matter of precaution.
“I knew I felt fine and I knew there was no structural damage or anything like that,” Harper said.
“Wiemi sat me down and talked to me about that, he said there was no structural damage, no ACL or anything like that. Everything looks clean. It’s the bursa sac and I’m going to try to get that right.”
Harper said after hearing that, he dreaded traveling to Florida to see Andrews more than anything.
“I just didn’t want to be on a flight. I didn’t want to be on the flight to get down there. I was kind of pissed off about that. That was the only thing that was going through my head,” he said.
Harper said the visit with Andrews was a positive one, that it was reassuring to hear he wouldn’t need surgery from the most respected orthopedist in the sports business.
“Dr. Andrews really gave me peace of mind and just let me feel good about our relationship with that,” Harper said. “I felt good after leaving him.”
Andrews administered a cortisone shot to Harper and gave him platelet-rich plasma to help speed up the healing process in his knee. Afterwards Harper was required to wear a large brace on his knee with bandages.
While walking through an airport in Atlanta on his trip back, Harper took a photo with a fan; the image, with the brace prominently displayed, showed up on Twitter. With no real information released about the results of his appointment, speculation among fans and media ran wild.
Harper was surprised with the reaction from the picture, but knows it comes with the territory of his celebrity.
“I just think people are going to say what they want to say and make things out of nothing. It’s just something we needed to do to keep it in place. We needed to let the cortisone sit in there and the PRP sit in there,” he said.
“We didn’t want any movement in the knee. That was a big thing for that, just wrap it up and keep it stable. We were doing that for a couple of days. People will talk and speculate, and people always freak out because RG3 is here. It wasn’t anything close to that. I was very blessed and thankful for having that done and not to have surgery.”
Robert Griffin III had his knee repaired by Andrews back in January after tearing multiple ligaments in the Redskins’ playoff loss. The incident brought intense media scrutiny and is still a major topic in the national sports conversation.
Harper is aware of the comparison given the two athletes play in the same city and are prodigies in their sport, but disagrees there are any similarities.
“His was totally different. That was something major and not even close to what I have. That’s just people being fans and saying things,” Harper said.
Harper did not have surgery, but he did receive a cortisone shot which he initially said he was against. But the renowned physician convinced Harper it was the best course of action.
“It was more of him just telling me ‘hey, it’s something that we need to do,’” Harper said. “I asked him if it’s going to hurt me in the long run and he said ‘no.’”
“I’m 20 years old and I don’t want to put that stuff in my body. I’d like to heal naturally, but this is something that would just speed up that process. He wanted to try and get me better within a couple weeks. Hopefully that will work.”
Harper admits he should have rested the knee earlier, as he continued to aggravate it sliding into bases and fouling balls off the swollen area. He calls it a learning experience and that he’ll know better next time.
“I probably would have gotten out of there a little bit early and try to get it better as quick as I could. I was trying to help my team out and I think I did when I was in there. It just got to a point where I couldn’t bear it anymore,” he said.
As far as whether Harper will change his style of play moving forward, as his all-out demeanor could lead to more injuries down the road, the 20-year-old said he just needs to continue learning the position of outfield. He played in the infield all during his little league career and through college.
“Maybe never run into a wall. I think that’s one of the biggest things. That’s what hurt me the most,” he said. “Just trying to be smart in certain situations. I’m still learning every single day. I didn’t grow up playing outfield.”
“Playing in the outfield, you have to learn every single day. You have to learn how to play certain guys and learn different positions. You need to learn how to play in different stadiums. It’s a lot different every day.”
Harper said he will not return until he is 100 percent, even as his team continues on a .500 pace with the Atlanta Braves seven games up in the N.L. East. When the time is right for him to come back, the time will be right.
“We have the whole second half left. We have 20 games left in the first half. We’re at 70. It’s a long season,” he said. “I think this division is still up in the air and we just have to go out and play our game. I can’t wait to get back out there 100 percent and help my teammates every single day.”