Ohio State linebacker Cody Simon says he's healthy after shoulder surgery
Cody Simon gutted it out as long as he could last year.
The Ohio State linebacker played the 2021 season with a torn labrum in his right shoulder, feeling a responsibility to his teammates to do what he could on a struggling defense.
But after the Michigan game, he realized that enough was enough. He had surgery and missed the Rose Bowl and was limited in spring practice in hopes of being ready for his junior season in 2022. Simon watched the game from the sideline in Pasadena with a sling to protect his right shoulder.
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“It hurt to not play in that Rose Bowl,” he said. “Guys are struggling every day. Bowl practice is really important, and they're grinding every day. To not be able to be out there with them was tough. But at some point, you know when it’s gone too far (to keep playing).”
Taking the long-term view appears to have worked out. Simon, who finished fourth on the team in tackles last year with 54, pronounced himself fully healthy on Tuesday.
“It’s been a long road, but through the whole offseason, I’ve been rehabbing it,” he said. “The summer was really important for me, and I got a lot stronger.”
The Buckeyes have had just a few practices in pads during camp, and Simon said his shoulder is holding up well.
But Simon has an uphill battle to regain his starting job. New defensive coordinator Jim Knowles said Steele Chambers and Tommy Eichenberg have solidified themselves as the top linebackers in his 5-2-4 scheme. With Simon out for the Rose Bowl, Eichenberg had 17 tackles against Utah and has built on that momentum ever since.
Knowles listed Simon and senior Teradja Mitchell as the top backups.
“Cody has great football acumen, great football intelligence,” he said. “He's tough. He's learned the defense even though he didn't get the play in spring.
“All I'm seeing with Cody now are just some issues in timing and fit. Timing is so important when you're making tackles, so it’s just him getting the rust off. But I really like what I've seen so far.”
Simon agreed that he’s still feeling his way back.
“When you haven't been in for a little while, you’ve got to get back to speed, and I'm still getting there right now,” he said. “It's not perfect. I'm still working on that, getting all the timing down and just being able to work well with the D-line and the DBs.”
Simon said he’s not dwelling on where he is on the depth chart. He said that all the linebackers are unselfish and push each other every day in camp to get better.
“When we’re done with it, we’ll see what happens,” he said.
“We all want to be the guy to go in, so what better motivation is there than competition?”
The linebacker unit took much criticism for its struggles last year, which was largely a by-product of inexperience and the failure of seniors to emerge. Buckeye linebackers are hungry to return to the expected OSU standard and are excited about the scheme Knowles is implementing.
Simon prides himself on being a student of the game and can't wait to put that to use.
“He really emphasizes that we have to lead the defense and take control,” Simon said. “We’ve got to be the enforcer of the defense. We’ve got to make sure everybody is (positioned) right, and if something isn’t right, fix it.”
Bill Rabinowitz covers Ohio State football for The Columbus Dispatch. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @brdispatch.