Michigan’s Rashan Gary discusses how he and his family handled the criticism while he was out with a shoulder injury, Nov. 6, 2018.
Nick Baumgardner, Freep
Rashan Gary wasn’t sweating any of the talk.
Even if it was bothering his mother and those closest to him.
When Michigan football’s junior defensive lineman went down with a re-aggravated shoulder injury in the Northwestern game in late September and proceeded to miss the next three, rumors and speculation began to float about whether or not Gary — a projected first-round pick in next spring’s NFL draft — would mimic Ohio State’s Nick Bosa and shut things down for the season.
Gary, who returned to the field Saturday against Penn State, says that was never a consideration.
“Absolutely not, absolutely not,” Gary said Tuesday. “We’re in a position where we can control what we want to control. Those are my brothers. We came here together, we started something and I need to finish it.
“I feel like that’s how everybody feels.”
Asked what he thought about those who speculated he might call it a season early, Gary’s response was simple.
“They don’t know me, so I don’t care,” Gary said. “The only people who know me are inside this (football) building. And my family members. They know my intentions, they know the person I am.”
As far as his family was concerned, Gary’s mother, Jennifer Coney-Shepherd, felt the need to squash some of that speculation via social media recently.
She made it clear her son wouldn’t be returning to the field until his shoulder was 100 percent. She also stated Gary’s goal was to get back and finish this season with Michigan.
Gary said none of the outside talk bothered him, but he could understand why members of his family might have been frustrated with it.
“It wasn’t much on me personally,” he said. “Just on my family. As an athlete, people are going to talk about you and say things they don’t know about you. The only person that knows what’s going on is me. But for my family’s standpoint, some people in my family looking at things like that, of course that could (annoy them). You’re talking about one of their loved ones. But for me personally, there was no stress on me.”
Asked if he’s now 100 percent, Gary said: “If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t be playing.”
The shoulder injury was something Gary suffered just prior to the start of the season. He attempted to play through it during the first five games of the season, but was ultimately limited in the first two Big Ten games vs. Nebraska and at Northwestern.
He sat out his first game against Maryland on Oct. 6, and was out again against Wisconsin the following week. He said the decision to sit the Michigan State game was extremely difficult for him due to the intensity of the rivalry.
He said his shoulder was not back to 100 percent at the time.
“You have to go when your body’s ready. Mentally, it’s ‘let me do this, let me do that’ but my body wasn’t ready,” he said. “Having my brothers out there practicing and playing without me, that took a toll mentally. … It felt like I’m not out there contributing or doing my job. As a player, that’s something you’re not used to. … I don’t know how to put that in words, it’s hard.
“Throughout (MSU week) it (never got to) where I felt like I could come out and give my team 100 percent. … Then we had the bye week, that helped me out. Then going into Penn State, I felt like I was ready.”
Michigan rotated Gary through the rotation a bit more than it usually does during his first game back last week. He was mostly used on early downs, before defensive coordinator Don Brown went with defensive ends Chase Winovich, Josh Uche and Kwity Paye, along with defensive tackle Michael Dwumfour on third down.
How his reps will be handled over the next two weeks, at Rutgers and vs. Indiana, remains to be seen.
In parts of six games this season, Gary has made 24 tackles (4½ for a loss), two sacks and four quarterback hurries.
On Saturday, he’ll head back to his home state of New Jersey to play in front of friends and family. He has already secured about 30 tickets from his teammates, though he’s on the hunt for about 10 more.
“It’s good to be back,” Gary said. “Practicing with my brothers, playing with my brothers, working hard with my brothers. That’s something I missed. I’m happy to be back with it.
“Being able to play in the Rutgers game, I’m happy. I’ve worked hard to get back healthy, I’m back now and we’ve still got goals to accomplish as a team. And I’m glad to be part of that.”
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