MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Every day teaches Dustin Garrison something new. The surgery to repair the torn ACL in the running back's left knee is in the past, the present is an education and the future offers no guarantees.
Running backs coach Robert Gillespie knows the feeling, not because he's been through this before, but because he's never been through this before.
Gillespie, who played the position in college at Florida and the NFL with the Washington Redskins, never had the injury. In seven years coaching the position in college, Garrison is Gillespie's first player to tear an ACL.
"It's all new to me," Gillespie said. "I always try to speak off of experience so when I'm talking to them it's about what I've seen and what I've done. This is a little different to me because I haven't been through it. I don't know mentally or physically what he's feeling."
So Gillespie is going back to school and learning what he can about what a player goes through during the recovery.
He has an open dialogue with the athletic trainers, who field any questions he has. Some of those trainers know people who work for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Gillespie said they're trying to find a player who's torn an ACL to speak to Garrison and share experiences.
Inside the Puskar Center is the team's assistant director of football operations, Quincy Wilson, who had the knee injury after his freshman season. He can reinforce the idea that Garrison can make it back and be productive again.
Through the sum of his work, Gillespie already has a plan.
"Obviously, it's a tough injury, but the ACL is just like any other injury. You have to feel comfortable coming back," Gillespie said. "If a guy had a bad shoulder, he needs to let me know he feels. It's all about making a guy feel comfortable. We're not going to throw a guy out there and say, 'Deal with it.' He has to feel comfortable.
"Once he feels comfortable, he'll be able to do the things we ask him. We've got all of camp, so there's time to figure it out. It may not be the first game. It may be three or four games into it where he's right."
Garrison is doing his part, not only putting in the extra work in the weight room after or even between practices, but being honest with the trainers and Gillespie. Things feel good so far, but they're not perfect.