"I had blurred vision right away," Sauer, 24, recalled Tuesday after his first practice now that the frightening concussion symptoms, which changed as the weeks went by, have diminished. He suffered from headaches, balance issues, forgetfulness and couldn't focus.
"The similarity was always the headaches," Sauer said. "Then I just felt like I was spinning. I'd get into bed and get nauseous. I felt like I was doing somersaults, but I was standing still."
Sauer, one of a score of NHL players who have suffered concussions this season, initially left the team for two or three weeks. When he tried to ride a stationary bike, the symptoms reappeared. He tried the bike again after a week, but the symptoms returned. Finally, in the last week to 10 days, Sauer felt normal. He wore an orange non-contact jersey at practice. "It felt great to be out there; I have to take it one day at a time, but I know it'll continually get better."
Without any setbacks, Sauer, a physical, second-pair defenseman, should return before veteran defenseman Steve Eminger (separated shoulder), who is at least three weeks away. Eminger also practiced Tuesday, the first time since he was injured Dec. 17. "Things are progressing as planned," Eminger said. "My strength is coming back. The only thing is shooting, it's about 50 percent."
A third defenseman, Jeff Woywitka, out since Dec. 30 with a bone bruise on his foot, felt no sharp pain while turning during practice and is day-to-day. "I'm not grinding my teeth out there," he said.
The Rangers dress six defensemen daily, and when all three injured blueliners have returned, it appears Woywitka, Stu Bickel and Anton Stralman will battle for the extra seventh slot.