Don't mind Markus Wheaton's mangled right pinkie finger. There are some people with grotesquely shaped digits - like bricklayers, pirates and Ronnie Lott.
Wheaton broke his pinkie when the Steelers lost to the Vikings in Week 4 last season, an injury that required surgery. The misshapen nature of the finger now wasn't a result of the injury, but rather, the rehab he didn't do, according to Tribune Review writer Alan Robinson, is the culprit.
"It looks horrible, but it feels real good," Wheaton told Robinson. "I'm pretty much out there not even thinking about it."
Wheaton said there was a miscommunication (his error) between him and his doctors. He was supposed to actively move it in the five-week layoff he had after the surgery. Instead, Wheaton kept it mostly immobile, which caused scar tissue to build up. That tissue could not be completely removed through a second surgery.
"It was tougher than they anticipated," Wheaton said, according to Robinson.
Robinson presented some skepticism in a post on the Trib Review's blog, The Steel Mill, on the same topic.
"I broke it in a couple of places, my pinky, the third bone in a couple of places (in London)," he said. "I had a couple of screws in that went into the joint and I had two surgeries. But that’s in the past and it’s not bothering me now."
Robinson's keenly senses an issue with all of this:
If that’s indeed what happened, it raises the question as to why no one who was treating him caught it and advised him what he should be doing. After all, this wasn’t a player who was hurt one Sunday and tried to play the next; Wheaton was out for more than a month, healing, after initially breaking the finger, and there was plenty of time to monitor how his recovery was going.
Injured players are watched closely by their teams, and it’s all but unheard of for an NFL player to go weeks without receiving the proper rehabilitation instructions. Wheaton doesn’t want to get into all of that, saying of his badly bent finger, "It doesn’t affect me, not at all. I’m pretty much out there not even thinking about it, pretty naturally catching the ball."
Wheaton has been playing the split end position with the first team during the Steelers' first two OTAs practices, and it's a position he's expected to keep heading into training camp. The Steelers drafted Clemson wide receiver Martavis Bryant in the fourth round of this year's draft. He shouldn't be expected to play a large amount of snaps early in this season due to a lack of experience.
That's the same issue Wheaton will have, though. He only caught six passes and missed a handful of games - and more importantly, practice time - due to his finger.
One thing he probably learned is make sure he listens to his doctor after any future surgeries. And for the Steelers, maybe checking in on a player to see how rehab is going would be a good idea.