AUBURN, Ala. — Carl Lawson is temporarily gone. But he certainly hasn't been forgotten by Rodney Garner.
"I treat Carl just like I do any other time," Auburn's defensive line coach said of the sophomore end. "Because of the '105 rule' (regarding the maximum roster size FBS teams may field during preseason camp), he can only come in when we’re not having structured meetings. So he’s at every team meeting. When there are special teams, my guys are in there coaching themselves, just running the film, so Carl’s in there."
Lawson was thought to be the heir apparent to Dee Ford, becoming the ferocious pass-rusher off the edge that Ford provided last year. But in the week leading up to the Tigers' spring game, Lawson suffered an injury to the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. It proved to be serious enough that Lawson had to have surgery on it in May to repair the damage.
"Dr. (James) Andrews looked at it, wanted to wait two weeks for the swelling to go down to be accurate and after two weeks he determined he needed to get it fixed," Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said at SEC media days. "So we got if fixed. Carl is working very hard. He’s determined to try to make it back sometime this year."
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One of his fellow defenders would be surprised if Lawson didn't return to the field at some point this fall.
"I saw him moving around a lot, actually," linebacker Kris Frost said earlier this month. "I’m really confident about him being able to come back. I’m not sure when, but whenever the time is right, we’re going to be ready for him."
Garner would tell you that, in a roundabout way, it's like the injury never happened. Lawson is always around the team's athletic complex, watching film and constantly picking the brains of the coaching staff for ways to improve his game.
"He’s a great young man," Garner said. " ... Carl works extremely hard and he’s busting his tail every day to get better."
Whether he expects Lawson to play this season, Garner wouldn't say. At this point, it's too early to tell. Besides, Lawson has to receive the go-ahead from doctors first.
When that occurs, Garner will finally sit down with his player to decide whether giving it a go this year is worth it.
"My role right now is to keep encouraging him, keep working him and keep doing exactly what they say to do," the coach said. "And then we’ll see how it goes."