Just when this season looked like it couldn’t get any worse for the Pitt Panthers and their embattled coach, Dave Wannstedt rolled around Pitt’s South Side offices Wednesday on a motorized scooter.
Wannstedt wasn’t doing his best impression of Penn State coach Joe Paterno, nor is he likely to be accused of road rage. This was more like Wannstedt doing a George Costanza – out of necessity, not narcissism – and with a surprisingly upbeat attitude.
After undergoing surgery yesterday on both his Achilles tendon and knee, Wannstedt found a way to keep his left leg elevated and his spirits high. Now, like a fifth of his starting lineup, Wannstedt is on the injured reserve. He will be forced to coach Saturday’s game against No. 23 Cincinnati from the Heinz Field press box.
“This will give me a chance to spend more time with Billy Stull and Gus (Mustakas),” Wannstedt joked. “It will give me a chance to coach (linemen Chris) Jacobson and (Jason) Pinkston, just do it in another way. How these things happen and why, you don’t even try to figure out.”
Sometimes, you have to laugh to keep from crying.
The Panthers (2-4) have already lost All-Big East receiver Derek Kinder (knee), quarterback Stull (thumb), defensive tackle Mustakas and right tackle Pinkston from the starting lineup.
Not only have serious injuries been Pitt’s Achilles heel, but Wannstedt’s Achilles heel is now seriously injured.
Wannstedt explained that he had partially torn his Achilles last summer and had the choice of going through rehabilitation or waiting until after the season for surgery. Compounding the situation, he injured his knee during a charity run in June and needed arthroscopic surgery.
The Achilles had been bothering Wannstedt all season and he occasionally wore a protective boot during practice. On Tuesday, while walking down the hall, he made a sudden turn and his heel ruptured. Considering he was already having one surgery, he had the knee scoped, too.
“For the first week or two, it’s non weight-bearing,” Wannstedt said. “You’ve got to keep the weight off it. You’ve got to keep it elevated. … I will be in the press box, just to keep from standing for four hours.
“I believe the next week I should be fine getting back on the field, so we’ll make that adjustment this week. The rest of the time, other than sitting in golf carts on the practice field, my day-to-day meetings and so forth should be normal.”
Offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh will leave the press box and return to the sidelines, which should improve his communication with freshman quarterback Pat Bostick.
“That’s the main thing, just having someone who can talk to the young quarterback between series,” Wannstedt said. “We’ll be fine. The players are aware of it. We’ll adjust and it won’t be the first time. Everything now is business as usual.”
Unfortunately, for Pitt’s sake, this is a season where such things are business as usual.