WEST LAFAYETTE – As Purdue linebacker Markus Bailey lay on the field and felt the pain in his knee, he knew his season was done.
“I just saw him fall to the ground,” defensive end Derrick Barnes said. “I thought it was one of those things where maybe someone hit his knee or his thigh. He told me, he grabbed his knee and said, 'It's over.'”
Bailey, a team captain and the Boilermakers' leading tackler in 2018, suffered the non-contact knee injury in practice Tuesday, while Purdue was not even wearing pads. Coach Jeff Brohm announced Wednesday that Bailey will have surgery and will miss the rest of the season.
“It's a very unfortunate injury,” Brohm said. “(Bailey) goes hard every day. He was off to a great start (this season), and he's had a great career here up to this point. Timing's never good (on an injury like this). ... I know he's very disappointed and not in the best of spirits, but he knows we're going to support him and we're going to get everything right, everything healed up to where he feels good about his future.”
Bailey is the team's leader on defense, a fifth-year senior and four-year starter who is a projected NFL draft pick. He finished with 115 tackles, nine for loss, and 51/2 sacks in 2018. On Saturday against TCU, a streak of 40 consecutive starts for the native of Columbus, Ohio, will come to an end.
The 6-foot-1, 240-pound Bailey had 14 tackles in the Boilermakers' first two games this season, including 10 against Nevada and his first sack of the year against Vanderbilt on Saturday.
“I came (to Purdue) to rebuild a broken program,” Bailey wrote on Twitter late Wednesday. “It's been rebuilt. If there's one thing being a Boilermaker has taught me, it's how to deal with adversity. Tough times don't last, tough people do.”
Bailey will have surgery in the next few weeks after the swelling in his knee subsides. It will be his second knee surgery after an ACL tear as a freshman in 2015.
Brohm anticipates Cornel Jones moving into the starting lineup in Bailey's place. Western Kentucky graduate transfer Ben Holt, son of Boilers co-defensive coordinator Nick Holt, will also see more snaps.
Jones led the team in tackles for loss as a sophomore in 2018 with 121/2, while Holt had 116 tackles for the Hilltoppers in 2018 and has 18 takedowns in his first two games with the Boilers.
The injury could mark the end of Bailey's Boilermakers career. After he is healed, he will face a decision on whether to enter the NFL draft or petition the NCAA for a medical redshirt and sixth year of eligibility. Brohm said the Boilers will be behind him on either path.
“That will be up to Markus,” Brohm said. “We want to do what's best for him and his future. Without question, (a medical redshirt) would be a possibility if he thinks that that fits him the best. For us, we want him to do what's best for him and we'll support him in every decision he wants to make.”
If Bailey's Purdue tenure is done, it will likely go down as one of the best by a defensive player in recent history. Bailey, who came in during the lean years of the Darrell Hazell Era, has more than 325 career tackles, 28 for loss, 131/2 sacks and a memorable 41-yard pick-six to seal Purdue's win over then-No. 2 Ohio State in 2018.
Note: Purdue quarterback Elijah Sindelar is still questionable to play against TCU on Saturday after suffering a “slight concussion” against Vanderbilt. Brohm said on the coach's radio show Wednesday night that he is “optimistic” Sindelar will play but that the fifth-year senior quarterback remains in concussion protocol.
Purdue vs. TCU
Where: Ross-Ade Stadium, West Lafayette
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Records: Purdue (1-1); TCU (1-0)
TV: Big Ten Network
Radio: 1380 AM, 100.9 FM