COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – Colorado Rapids midfielder Brian Mullan returned to practice for the first time Monday since his tackle broke the leg of Seattle Sounders midfielder Steve Zakuani last month, and said he’s still having trouble getting used to being back on the field.
"Just being back . . . anything can happen, I guess," Mullan told the Denver Post, explaining his apprehension. "It's going to be hard to get back into it, get back into tackles and stuff."
The five-time MLS Cup winner has been relegated to work with the reserve team while he serves the 9-game disciplinary suspension handed down by MLS last week. The suspension, which Mullan chose not to appeal, is the longest in league history for an on-the-ball tackle. He missed last week's match against Chicago while serving the automatic suspension for the red card received against Seattle.
Zakauni is expected to miss the rest of the season with two broken bones in his right leg, but has returned to Seattle after undergoing surgery at the Rose Medical Center in Denver.
Mullan received heavy criticism following his postgame comments on April 22, when he said that “it was a tackle that I’ve done hundreds of times, and I’d probably do it again.”
He backtracked from those comments a bit on Tuesday.
"I didn't know the extent of the injury until after I left the stadium," Mullan told the Denver Post. "I mean, would I do it again? I can't say that now."
Mullan was largely reluctant to speak about the incident on Tuesday, but did say he’s relying heavily on the support of his family, friends and teammates. Mullan hails from nearby Littleton, and attended Regis Jesuit High School.
“I think these moments are very difficult,” Rapids head coach Gary Smith told MLSsoccer.com. “Sometimes, it is a lot easier to see physical injuries than it is mental ones, and this incident has taken a lot out of him mentally. To have him back in the group and around everyone is a real big boost for the guys and it is a bit of a shoulder for him."