More than Ellis Hobbs's pride was wounded when he was beaten by New York Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress for the deciding points in the Patriots' 17-14 upset loss in Super Bowl XLII. According to a source close to the Patriots cornerback, Hobbs was playing with a torn labrum in his shoulder and chronic groin pain.
The source said that Hobbs, who didn't miss a game during the season and has missed just one in his first three seasons, had surgery Feb. 12, nine days after the Super Bowl, to repair the shoulder. He originally injured himself in Week 9 against the Indianapolis Colts. The surgery was done by noted orthopedic surgeon James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala.
"He had a piece of bone floating in his shoulder," said the source, who didn't know which shoulder Hobbs hurt. "It was very, very serious. But he went to the best and had a very successful surgery. According to Dr. Andrews, he should be fine for the start of next season.
"Recovery time is normally four to five months. He'll be ready easily by training camp, and maybe if it goes faster by some of the [organized team activities] in June."
Hobbs, who will turn 25 in May, suffered the groin injury, which is not expected to require surgery, in the Patriots' first matchup with the Giants, a 38-35 victory that closed the regular season Dec. 29. The oft-criticized cornerback had a big part in the win, picking a crucial time to deliver his first interception of the season.
Hobbs, who had been beaten by Burress for a 52-yard gain on New York's first possession of that game, intercepted Giants quarterback Eli Manning at the New England 48 with 9:59 left in the fourth quarter, setting up a Laurence Maroney touchdown run that gave the Patriots a 38-28 lead with 4:36 to go.
The source said that Hobbs wasn't looking to dodge responsibility for Burress's Super Bowl TD, which came with 35 seconds remaining and left the Patriots a less-than-perfect 18-1.
"Ellis isn't one to complain or whine. He'll say it didn't have much to do with the last play of the game," the source said. "It was other things and being the victim of a good move by a great receiver. He played with a great deal of pain for a very long time and nobody knew. He's just that type of kid. He sacrificed his body."
Hobbs's shoulder injury didn't show up on any of the team's injury reports. He was listed as questionable with the groin injury prior to the Jacksonville playoff game, but wasn't listed on the injury report for either the AFC title game or Super Bowl XLII.
However, the injuries were significant enough to limit his availability in the playoffs.
During the Patriots' first postseason game, a 31-20 win over the Jaguars at Gillette Stadium Jan. 12, Randall Gay started at right cornerback in place of Hobbs, who saw action as a sub, and wide receiver Chad Jackson replaced Hobbs on kickoff returns.
Hobbs started in both the AFC Championship game against the San Diego Chargers and the Super Bowl, but he did not return kickoffs in the Super Bowl, as Maroney replaced him.
During the regular season, Hobbs averaged 26 yards per kickoff return, seventh best in the league, and his 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the season-opening win over the New York Jets Sept. 9 was the longest in NFL history.
This marks the second straight offseason that Hobbs will have to deal with rehabilitating an injury. Last offseason, he was recovering from a second surgery to repair a broken scaphoid bone in his left wrist. Hobbs had surgery on the wrist on Sept. 27, 2006, and returned after missing just one game. However, he needed a second surgery in January 2007.
Hobbs showed no long-term effects from that injury, and the same is expected with the groin and the labrum, which was clearly the more serious of his injuries. According to the source, Andrews told Hobbs his labrum was torn in the back, the top, and a little bit in the front as well.
"It was pretty jacked up," said the source of Hobbs's shoulder. "He stressed to Ellis that the rehab is extremely important."
Christopher L. Gasper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org