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Austin Collie sees light at the end of the tunnel

Austin Collie suffered a patella tendon injury that kept him out most of last year, but has returned with a determination to get back on the field. Will the 49ers staff utilize the oft maligned Collie to the best of his abilities?

Austin Collie may do well to stick close to the sidelines this Fall for the 49ers
Austin Collie may do well to stick close to the sidelines this Fall for the 49ers
Doug Pensinger

The tunnel vision that restricts someone seeking for light at the end seems to accurately describe Austin Collie’s last few years as an NFL receiver. There is certainly the side effect of literal vision impairment that comes from multiple concussions, which has plagued Collie, but also the lack of vision for what the future holds. Even though concussions have received most of the headlines, it was a patella tendon injury that kept Collie off the field almost all of last year. The next few weeks will determine whether Austin is ready to emerge from that dark tunnel both physically and emotionally prepared to capture a roster spot in the NFL.

A Propensity For Concussions

Concussions are no laughing matter even though they are severely harmful to the grey matter in human brains. Dizziness, blurred vision, and memory loss are all symptoms that can hinder victims of concussions. Austin Collie has suffered three such concussions in his professional career, the most recent occurring last year in a pre-season game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Coming into this season Collie has stated that he is not going to put himself at risk this year, but every down he plays brings with it the huge risk of another injury. With his struggles to remain healthy, the fact remains that Collie is extremely vulnerable to suffering another concussion, especially with his proclivity for catching balls in the middle of awaiting defenses.

What About His Future?

The second vision impairment mentioned above occurred this off-season as Collie worked out with multiple teams. Having played in only one game last year for the 2012 Colts, it was hardly a surprise that the 27 year old was not re-signed. He eventually signed a one year deal with the San Francisco 49ers earlier this month, but the vagueness of his future remains as he is one of seven receivers competing for a few open spots on the 53 man roster.

Yet hope remains for the optimistic Collie who says doctors have put no restrictions on him. A. J. Jenkins was traded last Monday for Jon Baldwin who does not appear to have a spot locked down yet. Indeed, this looks like a great opportunity for Collie to compete for a spot in the rotation. Collie is only 2 years removed from being one of the most reliable pass catchers in the NFL and still has the speed and quickness to make plays on the field. Although Collie has only seen second half reps during the preseason it is extremely likely that he will see a larger portion of reps going forward.

If Collie is to succeed, the 49ers staff must put him in situations that keep him from running routes across the middle of the field. Short yardage situations might be an appropriate avenue for Collie as he molds himself into a third down specialist running curl routes at the sticks. He has sure hands and is a reliable target. The other option is to get him catching balls headed towards the sidelines. He still has the speed to get a lot of yards after the catch; he just needs to avoid the middle of the field at all costs. If the 49ers staff can focus on Collie’s strengths they will find a capable play maker who can make big contributions on the field.

The light at the end of the tunnel is much brighter than it was a few months ago for Austin Collie as he looks to return to the field and the game he loves. We wish him the best.