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If this is the end, David Fluellen got shafted. Instead of saying good-bye by dazzling a stadium filled with fans, he did it atop a dais in a room filled with reporters.
The injury-riddled University of Toledo running back gave no assurance Monday he will play another snap for the Rockets, be it Friday at Akron or in a bowl game should Toledo get an invitation.
Fluellen provided details on a mysterious lower-leg injury that’s sidelined him for much or all of the past four games. A recent MRI revealed a small fracture in his ankle — which he suffered early in the Bowling Green win on Oct. 26 — disputing Fluellen’s initial belief that something was amiss with his Achilles.
Fluellen said the decision to play this week in a regular-season finale at Akron is his to be made, though he hinted he may sit out with his team no longer in contention for a Mid-American Conference title after last Wednesday’s loss to Northern Illinois. Fluellen lacked his usual explosiveness, finishing with 54 yards on 15 carries. His longest run was 11 yards. Campbell said his top playmaker was limited to 75 percent strength.
“That was a game my team needed me,” Fluellen said. “Akron is a thing, if I’m ready I’ll play. If not, I won’t.”
Campbell added “I would not expect David to be in this game.”
Toledo (7-4, 5-2) may need a win to ensure a bowl appearance, and by extension, a chance for their senior workhorse to finish his superlative career in pads rather than street clothes. Campbell is hoping for Fluellen’s sake the Rockets get a bowl invitation for late December or January unlike last year when Fluellen did not recover in time from a high ankle sprain for the Dec. 15 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. He carried just seven times for 38 yards.
Friday is fixing to be the ninth time in the past two seasons that Fluellen missed a full game or significant time in a game due to injury. Ailing body parts have included the head, back, and twice the left ankle.
He entered the Bowling Green game third in the nation with 1,006 rushing yards but has totaled just 115 yards since, bringing his career total to 3,336 — fourth most in program history. He trails Trinity Dawson in third by 138 yards.
“It’s frustrating because I know my team needs me, and I wish I could be out there,” Fluellen said.
Akron (4-7, 3-4), whom Campbell called the most improved team in the MAC from last season, has won two straight, topping rival Kent State and Massachusetts.
One of Fluellen’s backups is also developing a habit for injuries. Freshman Damion Jones-Moore suffered a concussion for the second week in a row against Northern Illinois. His availability for Akron is unknown, leaving freshman Kareem Hunt, himself battling a minor injury, as the only sure thing at running back.
Fluellen, who has a professional career to consider, said there’s a chance he could suffer additional damage to his ankle if he attempts to make movements he’s not ready to make.
“It’s just trying to get strength back in there,” Campbell said. “It’s a lot like we were dealing with last year. It’s a strength issue rather than a structural issue, which is great for him going forward. We have to make sure we give him every opportunity to get himself back.”
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