Channel 2 sports director Adam Benigni is back at work after getting out of the equivalent of the National Football League’s "concussion protocol" following a bicycle accident three weeks ago.
However, he isn’t 100 percent back, with his daily duties dependent on how he feels.
“For this week anyway, it’s almost kind of a day-to-day type thing, based on how I feel,” Benigni said Wednesday night. “If you read about post-concussion syndrome, the one thing I do get is a little fatigued. You kind of hit a wall.”
He made those comments after finishing a report at the top of the 6 p.m. newscast on the ankle injury suffered by Buffalo Sabres star Jack Eichel. Benigni didn’t do the 6 p.m. sportscast after that because the station is allowing him to ease into his return after he was struck by a car on Sept. 22 while riding his bicycle near his East Amherst home.
“I’m totally cleared by doctors and everything," he said. “The symptoms have basically cleared up. The station has been great. Coming off a concussion, you want to ease your way back in.”
Benigni said this was his second concussion. He also had one playing high school hockey in Massachusetts.
“The first week was really tough,” he said of the second time. “It progressively got better, and the second week was kind of getting my mouth back together.”
Viewers watching his on-air return Tuesday or Wednesday may have noticed that Benigni has some stubble underneath his chin that barely qualifies as a goatee and that something is going on with his upper teeth. He is aware that the goatee doesn’t exactly make him must-see TV, but not shaving there is supposed to help with the healing process.
“I would never go on the air with a goatee that is that pathetic unless it were doctor’s orders,” cracked Benigni.
He added that four of his upper front teeth were left hanging out of his mouth because of the accident and then put back in place by the medical trauma team attending him.
“They’re rigged like a bridge,” said Benigni, who isn’t sure they can be saved. “It is going to be a process. We hope. We don’t know.”
Benigni said before he went back on the air for the first time Tuesday he did a couple of “mock” sportscasts to make sure his mouth worked well enough with the stitches inside so that his diction was decent.
“I feel like I’m talking with a new mouth,” he said. “Between the teeth and the stitches, it feels very strange.”
He began working behind the scenes on Sunday when the Buffalo Bills defeated the host Los Angeles Rams for their third victory of the season.
While Benigni was on injured reserve and off the air, the Bills won three straight games, making one jokingly wonder if the team’s 0-2 start was all his fault.
“Yeah, it must be,” he laughed. “Someone who is connected to the franchise on at one point joked with me, ‘We’re 2-0 when you were out,’ ” said Benigni, noting he was back working off-the-air Sunday for the Rams victory.
He plans to work the early shift tonight for the Sabres opener, tape “Sports Talk Sunday” on Friday, take Saturday off and be on-air Sunday for the Bills home game against San Francisco.
“I’m hoping to go full-tilt for the Bills game, my usual shift,” said Benigni.
The Bills-49ers game Sunday will be covered by Fox play-by-play man Dick Stockton and analyst David Diehl. Despite the return of controversial 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick as a starter, Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch reports the game is only going to be seen in about 7 percent of the country, counting San Francisco and Buffalo.