Maryland punter Travis Baltz's junior season was turned upside down, first with a sprained ankle that cost him several weeks and later because of a broken finger on his right hand.
It was the latter injury that carried with all sorts of unexpected consequences.
His hand was in a cast for weeks. He needed occupational therapy. He dealt with hand-strengthening techniques, and caught a weighted ball just to get a better sense of things.
Then there was school, where a man with only one functional hand still has final exams to contend with.
"My handwriting actually got pretty good left-handed," said Baltz, who had previously only played pool left-handed.
Doing things his usual way, though, remains a better option --- as does getting back to work for the Terrapins this spring.
Maryland is nearly halfway through spring practice, and punter isn't a major area of concern. Baltz started for much of three seasons, and sophomore Nick Ferrara filled in capably when Baltz was shelved.
Baltz, though, is as busy ever as he seeks a bounceback year from a season that was hardly any fault of his own.
"The best thing to compare it to is a golf swing," Baltz said. "It just becomes the most frustrating thing in the world when it's not going good. You think 'Well, I should go back to the old way.' Then you really look at it and realize 'If I do, I'm not getting any better.' You just have to deal with it and work through it. I think the first two weeks, I think this is the most I've ever kicked in five practices."
He's just making up for lost time.
The broken finger, in particular, was especially aggravating. In a Nov. 14 game against Virginia Tech, Baltz grabbed a Hokie by the jersey and didn't think anything of it. By the time he made it back to the sideline, he noticed a finger was out of place. It didn't hurt, so he later went back in to punt.
Big mistake. It wasn't long before he realized how troublesome a broken finger could be in catching a snap. So he got the punt off, retreated to the sideline and got the injury checked out. Sure enough, it cost him the rest of the season.
"There's nothing to really say," Baltz said. "There's nothing to prevent it. If you were to have told me before the season that would happen, I would have laughed at you. Right now, I can still laugh at it --- 'You missed three games this season because of a broken finger. Pffft.'"
It's easy to laugh, too, because that season is in the past. For the bizarre breaks to hammer the Terps last season, few rate as unusual as a starting punter getting knocked out for multiple games with separate injuries.
"It was like this cloud," coach Ralph Friedgen said. "You lose your best corner, you lose your tailback, you lose your left tackle, you lose your quarterback. Everybody thinks I'm whining."
Friedgen thinks Baltz punted well the first two weeks of practice, and the senior got a head start by going to Houston during spring break.
The payoff from that could be as good as last year's injuries were bad. And that would work just fine for Baltz."I have one more chance to do something special as a team and a group of specialists," Baltz said. "I really want to take advantage of it."