Ex-Illinois player blasts Tim Beckman, says he was forced to play hurt

ByMitch Sherman ESPN logo
Monday, May 11, 2015

Ex-Illinois offensive lineman Simon Cvijanovic lashed out Sunday against his former program and coach, alleging mistreatment after he sustained football-related injuries in 2013 and 2014.

Cvijanovic said Illinois coach Tim Beckman urged him to play through injury and discarded him after Cvijanovic endured psychological problems last year in the wake of shoulder and knee injuries that ended his playing career, and also accused Beckman of an "abuse and misuse of power."

"I'm trying to give everyone the power to stand up," said Cvijanovic, who posted a series of messages Sunday from his Twitter account. "[Players] here don't believe in themselves. They think everything that is happening is normal, but Beckman is exploiting all the negatives of the NCAA.

"He's knows we have no one to go to, and by the time we can afford to stand up for ourselves, it's too late."

Beckman, in a statement Sunday, described Cvijanovic as a "valued member" of the Illini who "chose to leave the team during the 2014 regular season and withdrew from the university before the end of the semester."

"Upon his return for the spring semester," Beckman said in the statement, "we have continued to support him with medical care, an academic scholarship and academic advising. We cannot make any student accept our support. We wish him success in completing his degree, and we wish him the best of success in whatever he pursues after he graduates."

Cvijanovic started 33 games over four years, including nine at left tackle as a senior.

He said he was pushed to return to practice last season two days after he suffered a labrum tear in his left shoulder on Nov. 1 against Ohio State. In a subsequent meeting with his parents, Beckman and offensive line coach Tom Brattan, Cvijanovic said he was told by Brattan that pain from his injuries were "in my head."

The shoulder injury occurred after Cvijanovic hurt his left knee as a junior. An Illinois-hired doctor performed arthroscopic surgery, removing meniscus from the knee in December 2013.

According to Cvijanovic, doctors told him little about the procedure. He said he learned months later that nearly 100 percent of his lateral meniscus was removed in addition to a portion of the medial meniscus, leaving him in pain throughout the 2014 season.

"I wasn't respected," Cvijanovic said. "They took my meniscus. I didn't have a choice in that."

Among his comments on Twitter, Cvijanovic wrote that Beckman "and his staff have systematically removed our voices by holding scholarships over our head" and that "I'm not just gonna keep quiet while players suffer."

He also tweeted earlier Sunday that he was explicitly told by Beckman and his staff members that his injuries weren't a big deal.

He said he was kicked out of Beckman's office Friday when he went looking for answers.

Cvijanovic said he chose not to go public earlier out of concern for his brother, freshman offensive lineman Peter Cvijanovic. The younger Cvijanovic recently received a medical hardship scholarship after his first season at Illinois.

Peter Cvijanovic, a Type 1 diabetic, lost 40 pounds in one year at the school, his father, Frank Cvijanovic, told ESPN.com on Sunday, as he pointed a finger at school officials.

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