ALAMEDA, Calif. — It happened during the first quarter of the first game of his first career season with the Raiders.
On Sept. 10, Andrew DePaola hobbled to the sideline where team medical staff conducted a Lachman test, a highly accurate hand-based method to determine whether an ACL is torn. A doctor afterward told DePaola he wouldn’t return to the game. He asked the long snapper if he wanted to know the right-knee diagnosis.
His search for knowledge would start when he got home.
At 1-5, this hasn’t been the season for which the Raiders collectively hoped. That characterization also applies to individuals such as DePaola, whose preparation all offseason came without corollary reward. He has coped with adversity in stages, including an extended review of the fateful play.
“At this point, I’ve probably watched it a hundred times,” he said.
DePaola correctly anticipated he’d torn his ACL when exiting the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on crutches. Once home, the 21-year-old uploaded the play from his team-issued tablet. He watched it again and again, studying how he made a seemingly routine cut near the Raiders’ sideline while in punt coverage.
His knee locked. A non-contact injury.
DePaola watched it the next day, too, at the Raiders’ facility.
“And then for the next four or five days,” DePaola said, “just kept watching it, trying to see if there’s something I could see. ‘Oh, that’s what it is. I can’t do that again. This is what happened. This is why it happened.’
“I couldn’t see anything. … That’s a move I’ve done thousands of times. Just that one time, it popped. Maybe my knee was a few degrees outside the framework of my body than it should’ve been, and that’s why it popped. I mean, who knows? I have no idea. I wish I had an answer because it would help explain it better, but at this point, I’ve moved past trying to figure out why it happened.”
DePaola is expected to make a full recovery for the 2019 season.
To do so, he holds an unfortunate grasp of the work required.
This was his second ACL tear in 21 months. The first occurred in the final game of the 2016 regular season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He was able to recover and rehab from reconstructive knee surgery in time for Week 1 in 2017.
That DePaola again finds himself in this situation reflects the fluky element of the business. Raiders kickers Eddy Pineiro (groin) and Mike Nugent (hip) also are on injured reserve. DePaola and Nugent were teammates last season in Chicago, too.
“He’s the kind of guy I would tell a young guy to watch,” Nugent said. “Watch this guy. He does everything exactly as you’re supposed to. He shows up on time. He does little things behind the scenes that, if you do consistently, you can play for a long time. … You’ll definitely be a better player if you try to emulate him.”
Dealing with injury, DePaola receives some behind-the-scenes help.
He and wife Amy were married on May 5 this year in Chestertown, Maryland. Their honeymoon was in June in Hawaii. Today, the newlyweds face the road ahead together. Even if the game provides its losses, the team on whom a player or coach relies can be undefeated with its response.
“She’s really the start of this whole thing,” DePaola said. “She was making me all my meals, getting me water because I couldn’t get up, running to the store, running to the pharmacy, running here, running there. Whatever I needed, she was always there. Anything I needed. If I was feeling down, she was always there to boost me back up.
“All I do is sit there and keep my leg propped up. … She’s doing everything.”
Next year, on the field, he should be able to do everything, too, as he did pre-injury.
Better days are ahead.