By ROBBIE NEISWANGER
Arkansas News Bureau
FAYETTEVILLE — Knile Davis didn’t need the examination. He didn’t need the diagnosis. He didn’t need to know what was coming next.
The Arkansas running back has been through all of it too many other times. When he felt one of Arkansas’ defensive lineman fall on his ankle during the team’s scrimmage Aug. 11 and heard the sound, Davis knew his tireless work to gear up for the 2011 season had been wasted.
And his mind quickly shifted to something he is all too familiar with — rehabilitation.
"I kind of know what’s about to happen," Davis said. "Because when I broke it, I mean, I knew it was broke. Because I know the sound of a break, and I knew what I was fixing to head into. I knew how surgery was going to go. ...
"But I do also know that you can come back from this. I do also know you can be faster, be stronger than you’ve ever been."
Davis spoke to the media Thursday afternoon for the first time since suffering what will likely be a season-ending injury, although he wouldn’t rule out a return later this fall.
The team’s leading rusher in 2010 and one of six team captains rolled into the interview room on a scooter with a bulky brace covering his surgically repaired left ankle. He wore a black T-shirt that said "Grind" and vowed it would be his plan for the next several months.
Is he disappointed? Of course. The feeling is unavoidable after the work Davis put in hoping to build on a 1,322-yard, 13-touchdown season.
Teammates and coaches were amazed by Davis’ work ethic in the offseason and his plans to lead the Razorbacks to new heights. Davis even admitted his confidence was sky high, too.
"I was ready for this year," Davis said. "I was probably more ready than I’ve ever been. I was hitting holes, I was hitting my tracks. I was feeling like a real veteran out there.
"Everyone kind of around the team saw it, as well as coach (Bobby) Petrino. I mean, he and I felt like it would be a big year for me. The hype and all the stuff that led up to this season was kind of what was the disappointment for me and coach Petrino and everyone else."
It’s the third time in Davis career he has suffered a broken ankle. And his fifth significant injury in five years, dating back to his junior season in high school when Davis missed time with a broken collarbone.
Davis was asked Thursday if it’s a sign he is injury prone. He thinks it is something else.
"I have strong bones," Davis said. "The doctor said I just run hard. I’ve just been in crazy positions when I break my bones. ... I don’t know how I get there. I just end up there.
"In this particular injury, I was stuck in the ground and a defensive linemen fell on me, you know what I mean? Anybody’s ankle would have broke in that situation. Just an unfortunate situation, but I’m going to bounce back."
He’s also confident Arkansas’ offense will continue to roll on without him.
Davis has been relegated to cheerleader duties once again. But he has embraced it.
Ronnie Wingo Jr. and Dennis Johnson are the beneficiaries of Davis’ absence and the back said they’ll perform well. He said Arkansas will, too, because "this is a great team."
Petrino agreed, even though losing Davis was a difficult blow for the Razorbacks.
"We miss him. We miss him a lot out there at practice," Petrino said. "His effort, his smile, his toughness. But our players are working hard to make up for it. I can tell you that. Our players are excited about it, trying to fill his role and fill his shoes."
Davis, meanwhile, confirmed he already is in the weight room daily trying to maintain upper body strength. He doesn’t know the timeline for when he can stand, walk or run, but is doing some initial range-of-motion work even though the ankle injury is just two weeks old.
"He’s still pumping iron. He’s still got a smile on his face," receiver Cobi Hamilton said. "He’s just a freak. He loves football. He always wants to be the best. He is going to find a way to get better on the field or off the field. ... I’m ready to see him next year."
Davis said he can’t wait to get back, too, but vowed he wouldn’t rush into a return.
Davis also insisted he had no regrets, even if there’s nothing to show for his relentless efforts in the offseason. Instead, Davis is at ease in knowing he did everything possible to prepare for another big season.
So for now he is leaning on his experience with injuries. And Petrino’s message during a conversation shortly after the injury occurred.
Davis’ ankle may be fractured, but his dreams haven’t been shattered. His goals, while postponed in the blink of an eye during that preseason scrimmage, remain attainable.
"There’s always a next time," Davis said. "There’s always a second chance. That’s how we’re looking at it."