FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson went through another round of concussion tests Monday morning, eight days after being knocked out of the Razorbacks’ loss to Louisiana-Monroe on Sept. 8.
Apparently, the senior didn’t pass.
But Wilson still sounded optimistic about his performance on the tests as Arkansas began its preparation for Saturday’s game against Rutgers in Razorback Stadium.
“The results were much better than the previous time,” Wilson said. “Much, much better - almost real similar to baseline. So that, for me, is very, very positive in my probability for this week.
“Like I told those guys (Sunday) night, I’m going to do everything I can do to get back to play quarterback for this team this week.”
Arkansas’ freefall remains the top topic surrounding the Razorbacks, who are trying to pick up the pieces from their unexpected 1-2 start. But Wilson’s health after the head injury remains just as important for the Razorbacks as they move forward.
The two go hand-in-hand. Arkansas has been outscored 79-10 since Wilson left the field late in the first half of the overtime loss to Louisiana-Monroe. In that time, the Razorbacks have gone from a top 10 team to an early-season disappointment.
Wilson, who took questions about the concussion and Arkansas’ struggles for the first time since the injury occurred on Sept. 8, understands the fallout. So he’s hoping his absence from the huddle will end along with Arkansas’ slide.
“I feel like I can go out and help this team score points and get on the board,” Wilson said. “But we’ve got to be all in it together. It’s not just me. I’ve got to be the one that continues to do the right things and heads us in the right direction. It starts with me.
“It starts with everybody looking in the mirror and identifying themselves.”
Wilson will continue to undergo tests this week to determine whether he is able to play Saturday. The quarterback revealed he was treated by doctors in Fayetteville last week, but also went to see concussion specialists in Pittsburgh for testing.
His condition improved some during the week, but Wilson continued to experience symptoms and wasn’t cleared to play against Alabama.
“It was more than just a headache,” Wilson said. “You take tests. The tests don’t lie. You do a number of things. I didn’t feel like my 100 percent self.”
Arkansas tried to keep his availability a secret, dressing the quarterback in uniform to use him during pregame warmups. He took off his helmet just before kickoff, though, grabbed a hat and watched Arkansas’ loss from the sideline.
Wilson didn’t see the ruse as a botched plan. He said it was part of his recovery.
“You only get to go out there in pregame 12 times a year and get into the routine,” Wilson said. “So it was good for me. I was all for that.”
The process will continue this week. Wilson said he ran with teammates during Sunday’s light workout and addressed them after practice. He is scheduled to be on the field for Tuesday’s workout, too.
The most important part of the week, though, will be the concussion tests. Wilson must be cleared before he can play against Rutgers.
“He’s going to go to the field and prep,” Arkansas coach John L. Smith said. “And of course we’re keeping our fingers crossed that he will get cleared before game time.
“Right now, things are very positive in that regard. So he’ll prep as if he’s going to play, as will the other guys prep as if they’re going to play.”
Wilson said he wouldn’t put himself at risk for more problems by returning too quickly, but wants to be on the field as soon as possible.
Wilson knows he’ll have to absorb more blows from defensive players once he is back. But Wilson said the situation was similar to last September, when he left the New Mexico game with concussion-like symptoms. Wilson didn’t miss any time because injuries the rest of the season, leading the Razorbacks to an 11-2 finish.
“You’ve got to play football,” Wilson said. “That’s why I came back. I’m not going to risk my complete health, but when I feel good enough to play and I feel good right now, I feel a lot better and I think it will continue to get better.
“I’m going to be out there on the field period.”
Wilson said he’s ready to shoulder the responsibility of dragging Arkansas out of its current slide, too. The quarterback delivered a fiery statement about the Alabama loss after the game, saying the team “at times, gave up” in the 52-0 loss.
He addressed it again Monday, saying the message wasn’t directed at any one player in particular. Wilson did have Arkansas fans in mind, though, trying to ensure them he planned to do everything in his power to return to the field against Rutgers.
Rutgers coach Kyle Flood said the Scarlet Knights expect to see Wilson on Saturday.
“We can only go forward and prepare as if he’s going to be there,” Flood said Monday. “And I think to do it any other way would be a mistake. … He’s one of the elite quarterbacks in the country. So you don’t get to be an elite quarterback just on physical talent alone. He’s obviously a tremendous leader for their program and when he steps on the field, he probably makes everybody else in the huddle more confident just by his presence alone.”
Wilson said it was difficult to watch from the sidelines last week and, at one point, wanted to grab his helmet and run out to the huddle no matter what the concussion tests concluded. He doesn’t want to endure sitting out again Saturday.
“I’m extremely optimistic,” Wilson said. “I’ve just got to get those guys to say, ‘Yes.’”