NORMAN — Growing up, Ryan Reynolds never was particularly superstitious. But after a nightmarish run of bad luck comprising knee injury after knee injury after knee injury, Oklahoma’s senior middle linebacker is open to anything short of wedging a rabbit’s foot into his facemask. With hopes of reversing his karma, Reynolds already has changed his jersey number from No. 8 to No. 4. "No. 4 was my high school number,” he said. "I’m hoping it’s going to bring me better luck. I don’t want any more surgeries coming my way.” Reynolds’ most recent setback came in the third quarter of last year’s Red River Shootout when he tore his ACL, requiring season-ending surgery. But, as with the first two, Reynolds overcame his latest knee injury and has been cleared for some time to participate in all practice drills. "The guys have a great deal of respect for him, what he’s gone though,” defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. "The toughness he exemplifies is what you want all of your guys to be about.” OU’s tough guy spoke with The Oklahoman about his third grueling rehab, and why he believes this comeback will be smoother than those of the past. → How great is it to finally be back on the practice field? Reynolds: "It’s awesome, just actually feeling part of the team again rather than having to watch from a distance. To be part of it again is awesome.” →How is the knee? "I’m pretty close to 100 percent. I felt real good during the summer. I was still rusty (the first day of practice) just with the football movement. I’m sure it will take a couple days just to get my legs underneath me again. But I feel great.” →This being your third recovery, you knew the drill. But what was it like coming back this time vs. the other two times? "Well, I knew what to expect. Last time I got hurt I gained a lot of weight. So I knew to keep my weight down this time while I came back to give myself a better chance at coming back at full strength.” →You were noticeably faster and quicker last year than 2007. Was part of that from the fact you were slimmer and is that how you wanted to come back? "Exactly. And I have tried to keep around that same weight (around 225). I’m actually five pounds lighter than that right now. It’s just been better agility-wise and with my speed. Once I get my legs underneath me, I’m hoping to be back where I was last year.” →You were devastated after the Texas game last year; it’s been a horrible run of back luck. But I remember coach Venables saying that following Monday, you were already on the sidelines doing sit-ups and he had to tell you to relax. You turned it around quickly and said, ‘I’m going to be back.’ "Exactly. I didn’t want to sit and sulk and take too much time off. Or feel sorry for myself or let people feel sorry for me. I just wanted to let the team know I was still part of it and I was coming back.” →Coming into last season, you were the only proven commodity at linebacker. Now, there are a lot of proven commodities at the position. How much easier is it that you don’t have to make every play necessarily as you work your way back? "It’s nice. They all know the adjustments, how to make the calls. It’s a lot less stress on me as opposed to last year.”
Ryan Reynolds’ three knee injuries:→ 2006: Rips anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee while chasing down a receiver in 7-on-7 drills during the summer. →2007: Severs lateral collateral ligament in his right knee in a pile during spring practice. →2008: Tears anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in the third quarter against Texas; with Reynolds out, Longhorn offense scores on four straight possessions to rally for a victory.