The Scarlet Knights begin another season on Monday, and how it goes depends mostly on a guy named Mike Teel:
PISCATAWAY, N.J. — All Mike Teel really needed was a couple of weeks off. That would have been enough to give him time to recover from a broken right hand that he said was so swollen and sore that he could not grip his cell phone, let alone a football.
Teel, Rutgers’ starting quarterback, played down the injury in public last season and stayed in the lineup, sometimes making the decision to play minutes before kickoff. The Scarlet Knights lost three of five games after he was injured, and Teel was often blamed.
He said he kept his mouth shut because he did not want opponents to know how badly he was injured. He kept playing because he was not hurt badly enough to miss a game. Dealing with the criticism was not so hard. That is part of being a quarterback.
“Sometimes, I felt sorry for Mike because he caught a lot of the heat,” Rutgers Coach Greg Schiano said recently. “That goes with being a quarterback — he catches a lot of the praise when things go well, too. But I don’t think anybody knows just how bad he was hurt. The fact is, he gutted it out.”
More than five weeks separated Rutgers’ final regular-season game, a loss to Louisville, and the International Bowl, which the Scarlet Knights won over Ball State in Toronto. Teel’s thumb had recovered, and he passed for 303 yards in a 52-30 victory.
Now, as Rutgers prepares for a season that is to begin on Monday against Fresno State, Teel says he feels fine. His receivers say Teel is throwing the ball with perhaps more zip than he had before he was hurt. He is anxious for his last season at Rutgers.
“It’s been a long journey to get to this point,” said Teel, a fifth-year senior from Oakland, N.J. “There have been a lot of highs and a lot of lows.”
It will be interesting to see how Teel, and the Knights, do without Ray Rice.