September 23, 2015

PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) Darius Hamilton hobbled across the team meeting room before reporters converged on the Rutgers defensive captain. The defensive lineman spoke with confidence in his ability to continue playing this season, despite his injury.

Hamilton was hurt midway through spring practice, and wore a brace on his right knee at the team's open practice in August. Team officials have not specified his injury.

As he missed training camp and the first two games of the season, it became possible he would redshirt the season.

Then, five days after being listed as ''out'' on the team's initial injury report, Hamilton suited up at Penn State.

''I was out there before I should have been out there, but that was on me,'' Hamilton said. ''I wanted to be a part of that and I'm just trying to be out there.''

The tackle labored through Rutgers' first Big Ten game. Playing around 15 plays, the emotional boost Hamilton gave his teammates wasn't enough as Rutgers fell 28-3 at Penn State and dropped to 1-2.

With practice closed to reporters last week, Hamilton said he's been working on his technique and conditioning.

''Obviously that's not the same as being out there with the guys every day, but I've been working,'' he said.

A medical redshirt is still an option for Hamilton.

''I really haven't explored that one too much, but like I said before, if the time comes to that, then we'll explore it,'' the son of former New York Giant Keith Hamilton said.

For a medical redshirt, the injury has to occur prior to the midpoint of the season. The student athlete can compete in up to three games or 30 percent of the schedule, whichever number is greater. So in football, they can play in four of the first six games and still be eligible for a hardship waiver. The necessary medical documentation available to submit to the conference is needed.

Having missed the first two games, Hamilton wouldn't have to shut it down until after Rutgers' game at Indiana on Oct. 17.

However, Hamilton insists he hasn't put much thought into those possibilities.

''I try to focus on the now, where this team needs to go, how exactly we need to get there and like I said, when I cross that bridge, I'll make the best decision for me,'' Hamilton said.

Hamilton's first decision is whether to play Saturday. The 6-foot-4, 265-pounder admits this is the worst injury he's dealt with throughout his football career.

''I've been hurt before. I think the problem is there's a difference between being hurt and being injured. I might be on the fine line of that. I've got it figure out,'' Hamilton said.

With Rutgers under .500 in September for the first time since 2008 and tumultuous off the field issues, he is well aware of the importance of Rutgers' homecoming game against Kansas (0-2).

''Every time I see these guys take the field it's hard to watch, but I trust them if I can't be out there with them this week they'll take care of business,'' Hamilton said. ''Last week didn't go well for whatever reason and sometimes that happens. Sometimes you just don't play well and that's what happened to us. Hats off to Penn State, I think they played a great game, but it's time to move on. Like I said, we're 1-2. A lot of football left to play.''

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