STUART GROSKREUTZ / THE CHIPPEWA HERALD Waived by the New York Jets after five seasons, Chi-Hi graduate Chad Cascadden expects to make a full return to the NFL following his second major knee surgery.

BY STUART GROSKREUTZ

THE CHIPPEWA HERALD

While preparing to make that walk down the aisle, Chippewa Falls High School graduate Chad Cascadden is also well on the road to recovery.

It certainly didn't stop him the first time and the five-year NFL linebacker and special teams performer doesn't expect his second major knee injury to keep him from running down quarterbacks.

Cascadden, waived by the Jets on March 2, is making strong progress toward a full recovery. Which team will be the beneficiary of his return remains to be seen, although he expects something to happen within the next month.

Prior to a possible new contract, however, is the matter of his wedding. He is scheduled to marry New Jersey native Melissa Pace on May 26 in New York.

The ACL surgery on Cascadden's right knee came 10 years after underdoing the identical procedure on his left knee when he was a senior in high school. He followed that up by walking on to the University of Wisconsin, where he contributed to the Badgers 1994 Big Ten Championship and subsequent Rose Bowl victory.

"It's about six-and-a-half months post surgery and the knee is great," Cascadden said late last week. "I've been able to do everything that (the doctors) have asked me to do.

"I'm running, although right now it's mostly straight ahead running, even though I can do some cutting. At this point, there's no reason to accelerate the process because I'm two or three months away from (training) camp."

The Jets, who cut Cascadden loose as he was entering the final — and least expensive — season of his three-year, $2.3 million contract. He was scheduled to make $500,000 this season.

He has visited with three NFL teams and anticipates an offer sometime after June 1, which is when teams looking for additional room under the salary cap are expected to make some roster cuts.

"I was initially surprised, but I wasn't shocked," Cascadden said of the Jets decision to waive him. "In this business, you take everything with a grain of salt. You come into the league knowing that it could happen at any time, but I was a little surprised in that I felt I was recovering fine.

"The doctors that I've had and the three other teams' doctors have all said that I'm well on the road to recovery."

Cascadden admits that having gone through the surgery once before helped eliminate any concerns he may have had about making a successful comeback.

"It's pretty amazing nowadays how common these surgeries are," said Cascadden, who has a degree in kinesiology and was prepared to pursue medical school if professional football hadn't panned out. "It has happened so many times with so many football players that they have come back and been healthy."

Entering last season with 80 career tackles in 56 games, including 12 starts, Cascadden injured the knee while defending a screen pass in the third quarter of the Jets' Week 4 game against the Denver Broncos.

He started four games for the Jets in 1998, when he compiled 23 tackles, five sacks and deflected four passes. He also recovered a pair of fumbles, including one that he returned for a touchdown against the Miami Dolphins in a nationally-televised game.

Cascadden also has 55 career special teams tackles on his resume.

"I expect to be 100 percent by camp," Cascadden said. "I've always had challenges put in front of me and this is just something else I have to deal with."

Reach Stuart Groskreutz at stu@chippewa.com.

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