Brian Carroll was Mr. Consistency for Columbus last year, starting every match and playing nearly every minute en route to the Crew's first MLS Cup.

Brian Carroll was Mr. Consistency for Columbus last year, starting every match and playing nearly every minute en route to the Crew's first MLS Cup.

A severe separated shoulder made sure Carroll, 27, wouldn't be the same constant presence in the central midfield this year. But his quick recovery lent credence to teammates who call him a "cyborg."

Carroll suffered a grade-five AC separation - "if not the worst you can do, pretty close to it," he explained - when he and San Jose's Simon Elliott tumbled to the ground during a May 27 home game.

"The play was very strange," Carroll remembered. "[Columbus] had won the ball already, but we stayed tangled up. He fell on top of me, and the first thing that hit the ground was my shoulder."

Carroll immediately felt a sting and realized he couldn't move his arm. He couldn't tell how bad the injury was, but he knew he had to come out of the game immediately.

Essentially, Carroll's shoulder was ripped completely from its socket. At first, team doctors and trainers estimated he would need to rest the shoulder for at least a month before resuming training.

But thanks to their quick response and smart treatments, Carroll jump-started the healing process and managed to return to the pitch a mere three weeks after his injury, to the shock of the medical staff, teammates and coaches.

Carroll will need surgery at some point - maybe at the end of the season, maybe when he retires - to repair his disconnected cartilage and "make my shoulder look normal again." But he said he's regained his full range of motion and is nearing full strength.

"I still know that it's there. When I start playing, I just sort of forget about it," Carroll said. "I've fallen on it a couple times and used it to shield players."

Yes, Mr. Consistency is back in the mix, showing off Schwarzenegger-esque levels of resiliency. Carroll couldn't help but be a little impressed with his quick recovery when trainer Jay Matthews showed him an article that recommended resting grade-two or -three AC separations for four to six weeks.

"We just started laughing about that," Carroll said.

Night of Champions

To rub their MLS Cup victory in New York's face one more time, the Crew has chosen to present the players with their championship rings at this Saturday's match versus the MLS Cup-losing Red Bulls. As part of the "Night of Champions" festivities, former World Heavyweight Champion and Columbus native James "Buster" Douglas will perform the coin toss.