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It's what Simon doesn't say

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The questions have to be specific to get the right answer, which Urban Meyer almost found out the hard way.

The Ohio State coach has raved seemingly since he arrived about the leadership, drive and tireless work ethic of John Simon, but that complete package does come with one characteristic that can pose a challenge.

The defensive end might actually be a bit too tough, since an unwillingness to acknowledge any physical weakness can perhaps become a detriment to the Buckeyes if they aren't aware of his limitations. So after one close call where Simon nearly surprised Meyer with how close he was to missing a game against California in September, a player who seems to feel more pain from talking about his injuries than actually dealing with them has had to open up a bit more often to his coach.

"We have grown-man conversations now," Meyer said. "I'd ask him and he's very honest with me now, because we need to know. I mean, a hurt player will sometimes hurt you, you know, he'll put himself out of position. John is awesome, and he lets us know now.

"I don't ask him, 'How are you doing?' We go through a checklist. We've got the rib squared away, the groin squared away, the rolled ankle squared away, now we're just dealing with a shoulder."

Simon still flatly refuses to talk about any of those specific parts of his body publicly, but it's clear whether he's willing to admit it or not that the senior is finally starting to regain his health. If he'd rather let his production do all the talking for him, the results sent a clear message against Nebraska on Saturday.

After spending much of the first half of the season struggling to make plays and really not coming close to having the type of impact the Buckeyes have grown accustomed to from the two-time captain, Simon seemingly spent the entire night in the Huskers backfield on the way to five tackles for a loss, two sacks and a forced fumble. But much the same way he didn't point to any injuries as a reason for his slow start, Simon still didn't have any interest in using his health to explain his explosive outing as the Buckeyes turn the page to a trip to Indiana to start the second half of the season.

"I felt pretty good that day," Simon said. "Why are you guys so, like, excited to keep asking me about [injuries]? It goes both ways, but I do feel good. I'm getting better every week.

"I mean, it's part of the game, and we get excited for the games and it kind of takes the pain away."

Winning can numb it as well, and Simon and the Buckeyes haven't had to worry about the alternative yet this season.

They haven't been perfect defensively, though health issues involving more than just Simon on the line have been part of the problem. Projected started Michael Bennett missed the first four games with a groin injury and still isn't back to 100 percent. Defensive end Nathan Williams was slowed early as he recovered from microfracture surgery on his knee and is just now showing signs of his old athleticism on the edge.

And then there's Simon, who if he had his way would never miss a snap but at one point was close to missing an entire game. With a bit of prodding, he's willing to admit that in hindsight. But if Simon's health becomes something worth worrying about again moving forward, the Buckeyes are counting on him to at least talk to their coach about it.

"There are a lot of guys who get dinged up," Simon said. "It's Big Ten football, so guys are going to get dinged up.

"When you win the game, you feel good -- and 6-0 feels pretty good."

Simon obviously has no problem acknowledging that.