Markedly Good News

P Mark Royals’ knee injury is not as severe as originally feared…he could return for the regular season opener

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P Mark Royals had some fairly good news thrown his way Tuesday morning

If we told you on Monday morning that Mark Royals could miss up to a month of action, you probably would have considered it bad news.

That same revelation Tuesday morning has to be considered a positive development.

The mood in some corners was grim Monday afternoon when Royals suffered an injury to his right knee during just the second practice of training camp. He had to be helped off the field and, ten minutes later, into the training room via a cart. The right kind of knee injury – or perhaps we should say the wrong kind – could have landed Royals on injured reserve for the entire season.

However, the prognosis wasn't that severe after Royals underwent an MRI examination and was looked over by Buccaneer doctors on Monday evening. The diagnosis is a sprained right medial collateral ligament (MCL) and the first guess at recovery time is promising.

Royals could miss up to a month while recovering. Because his knee responded well to a Tuesday morning examination, the team is actually considering his situation 'week-to-week.'

If that first guess holds true, it would return Royals to action in time for the Bucs' regular-season opener on September 9 in Dallas.

The punter himself was in ambivalent mood Tuesday, upset that he was laid up in the training room while the team practice but partially relieved that he may not miss any of the games that count. Shortly after a teammate was blocked into his right leg, which had come down after the kick and was planted in the turf, Royals feared the worst.

"If you can talk about an injury being a 'good' one, this is about as good as it could have been," he said. "When you're planted like that, a lot of bad things can happen. I have a chance to get back for the season opener, which is my focus right now."

And while it is a minor setback, it hopefully will not derail what was shaping up as another good season for Royals.

"This is definitely not (the way I wanted to start the season)," he said. "You come in the first day of camp and you look at it is a way to get your timing down. I actually came into it kicking pretty well, which I was encouraged by. Normally, it takes me a little while to get going."

Even if he harbored a little disappointment on Monday, Royals is likely to attack his rehabilitation head-on. One of the team's most dedicated offseason workers, the 36-year-old Royals is in extremely good shape. He won't get a chance to work on his timing in camp, but he will be working hard through the month of August.

"It's just a freak thing and, really, there's no looking back," said Royals. "What's done is done and the focus now is on trying to get better. Hopefully, that will be sooner than later."

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