Merletti might return for bowl

Prognosis better than expected

jgiglio@newsobserver.comNovember 10, 2011 

North Carolina safety Matt Merletti went in for knee surgery on Tuesday expecting the worst.

He came out with the best possible news and a second chance at his senior season. Merletti, who injured his left knee during UNC's loss at Clemson on Oct. 22, underwent arthroscopic surgery on Tuesday to repair loose cartilage.

Merletti had originally been diagnosed with ligament damage and was expected to be out for the rest of the season. There's no timetable for his return but there's a chance he might be able to play in the Tar Heels' bowl game in December.

"I knew there was a possibility the (anterior cruciate) ligament wasn't torn," Merletti said. "I didn't know though until I woke up from surgery."

Merletti, a fifth-year senior, had 36 tackles and two interceptions in the first eight games of the season for UNC (6-4). He has missed the past two games and won't play in the final two regular-season games but hopes to return to practice in December.

The Military Bowl in Washington on Dec. 28 is one of the possibilities for the Tar Heels, as well as the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La., on Dec. 26, and the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco on Dec. 31.

Merletti said he's going to take his rehab day-to-day but if he can help the Heels, who have struggled against the pass, he will try to play in the bowl game.

"If I'm going to play, I want to be 100 percent," Merletti said.

Merletti missed the entire 2009 season with a knee injury when he tore the ligaments in his right knee in training camp in '09. He was relieved by Tuesday's news.

"It was a huge weight off my shoulders," Merletti said. "I didn't want to go through an ACL rehab again."

giglio: (919) 829-8938

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