Nick Weiss has no idea how he suffered an injury that sidelined him for more than two months this season. He’s just happy to be back in the Buffalo Bandits’ lineup.
The transition player is ready to go as the Bandits play the Knighthawks on Saturday night in Rochester (7:30 p.m., Radio 1520 AM).
Weiss felt fine at the start of the team’s first game of the season back in late December. All of a sudden he didn’t feel so fine.
“It’s actually a bit of a mystery. I have no idea what happened,” Weiss said. “Sometime during the first game I did something to myself. I sat down for five minutes. When I stood up, I almost hit the floor because I was in such pain.”
The four-year veteran had suffered a sports hernia. He tried to rest for a few weeks and do some physical therapy to cure his condition, but it didn’t help. Once Weiss went through some more tests to make sure the sports hernia was his only problem, he had surgery in late January. He was told it would take four to six weeks to recover from the operation, and he was right on schedule.
“It was tough sitting out for several weeks last year with a concussion,” Weiss said. “This year it might have worse at the start because the team struggled.
“It was a lot of little things that went wrong at the start. No phase of our team was playing as well as we could have. But once we switched our defense to a system that fits us better, the defense and goaltenders have been playing better. The offense has been moving the ball around better too.”
Weiss returned to duty last week against Vancouver, and assistant coach Rich Kilgour was happy to see him in the lineup once again.
“He can get up and down the floor,” Kilgour said about Weiss. “The biggest thing I like about him is that he’s not fun to play against. A guy comes down the floor, sees him and says, ‘This won’t be fun for the next 30 seconds.’ When you lose a guy like that it really hurts. It’s nice to have him back.”
The transition player was part of a good-sized group that returned to action last week. Anthony Malcom and Alex Kedoh Hill also played after missing some time. The returning players obviously helped, as the Bandits blew open a close game with a big third quarter run to beat the Stealth.
“Oh, it was nice to see that,” Weiss said about the team’s performance. “They made it a tight game early. But the way we responded in the third quarter, blowing them away with the run, we were all very happy.”
“We had a tough start with the injuries,” Kilgour said. “You expect some injuries, but you don’t expect them all at once. Now the coaches have some choices to make. Some of the younger players made it tough for us to decide who should be in the lineup by playing well when they got the chance.”
One big piece of the puzzle still has to be put in place. Ryan Benesch has yet to return from concussion protocol. He did work out with the team in full equipment this past week. Now the Bandits are waiting to see if there are any after-effects from the session before activating him.
Weiss knows what Benesch is going through. Both players missed some time last year with concussions.
“It’s a helpless feeling,” Weiss said. “No one knows how to fix it. You just feel the fog and the pressure.
“I think we’re all more aware of the effects of concussions now. There obviously are a lot of head shots in the game, but nobody really knew about the effects of them before. We’re all more educated about it now.”
Weiss wasn’t a part of the Bandits’ only loss in their last five games. It came three weeks ago in Rochester. The Knighthawks scored the tying goal off a turnover with 2.1 seconds left, and then won in overtime.
If Buffalo had hung on for two more seconds, it would have a 6-5 record and be tied for second in the National Lacrosse League’s East Division. The Bandits’ actual 5-6 record leaves them fourth in the NLL East, a half-game out of the third and final playoff spot.
Weiss said no one in a Buffalo uniform Saturday night will need to be reminded of what happened in the team’s last visit to Rochester.
“That was a tough pill to swallow,” he said. “If you had played that scenario out 100 times, we might have come out on the wrong end once.
“It would be nice to put some breathing room behind us in the playoff race. We want to set our sights on second place and even first place. It was a strange start to the season, but everything is getting better.”