NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Fabiano Vieira pulled over at a gas station on his way home from the Built Ford Tough Series event in Tulsa, Oklahoma, two weeks ago.
Vieira got out of his truck and told his wife, Jilian, that something was wrong with his right shoulder.
He was still feeling pain after pulling out of the Built Ford Tough Championship Round despite sitting in fourth place in the event average.
“My shoulder had come out,” Vieira recalled. “I was in a lot of pain in Tulsa. I stopped at the gas station and put it back in.”
Vieira then laughs.
“I told her this pain is not normal. So I just pulled on it.”
Just like he did last season, Vieira is once again defying the odds with his unstable shoulder.
He went 4-for-5 (336.5 points) to win the Jack Daniel’s Music City Knockout Ride Score Championship and he had ridden nine consecutive bulls before bucking off Sasquatch in the final round Saturday night.
Vieira – the only rider with four qualified rides in Nashville – doesn’t know why or how he is continuing to ride impressively.
The nine consecutive rides are tied for the most in Vieira’s career. The 33-year-old previously rode nine in a row in 2011.
In fact, Vieira’s arms were shaking during his post-event interview inside Bridgestone Arena.
Vieira had attempted four bulls on Saturday night and said his arms began to shake after he rode Rusty for 87 points in Round 3.
“I was a little hurt today,” he said. “My shoulder. He was a little strong and spun left. My arms hurt and were shaking after I fell off.”
He previously rode Circle City for 79.5 points in the second round on Friday night and then put up 84.5 points on Hot & Juicy and 85.5 points on Strong Heart in the fourth and fifth rounds Saturday.
Vieira has been the second-hottest rider on the BFTS behind J.B. Mauney since the summer break concluded.
Vieira has used two second-place finishes and a sixth-place finish in Tulsa to earn a whopping 1,120 points toward the world standings. He has jumped from 13th to fifth in the world standings in three events by earning 46.86 percent of his world points in August.
After being a World Champion contender last season, Vieira has once again put himself back in the title race. He trails Joao Ricardo Vieira by 1,182.5 points heading into the WinStar World Casino and Resort Invitational in Thackerville, Oklahoma, on Sept. 4-5.
“I have been saying for a long time he is as good as there is,” said nine-time World Champion and CBS Sports Network commentator Ty Murray. “His injuries have been the only thing that has held him back. Even now, he can still freaking ride pretty good with the injury. He has that wiry center (frame), is really strong pound for pound and is an athletic, quick guy.”
There are five BFTS regular-season events remaining until the Built Ford Tough World Finals on Oct. 21.
PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert said that Mauney’s left ankle injury may have opened a door of opportunity for Fabiano.
If Mauney misses any time or struggles to ride through his own injury, a consistent Vieira may be able to make a big move.
“Fabiano can out-ride Joao,” Lambert said. “Fabiano can ride better than he can.”
Fabiano has risen his riding percentage to 51.56 percent (33-for-64), which is the third highest on the BFTS, and his 33 qualified rides ranks second.
Once again, the biggest question will be how Vieira will fare with his bum shoulder.
He opted out of the championship round with an opportunity to win the event in Tulsa and his shoulder caught up to him by the end of the weekend in Nashville.
He aggravated the shoulder while riding Raven Flyer for 83 points in Tulsa. Vieira has competed in all 21 BFTS events this year.
All he did after Tulsa was go team roping and participate in some resistance band training to help strengthen the shoulder.
“I feel better (compared to last year),” he said. “I was using tape and holding my shoulder with a brace. This year is nothing.”
Vieira said he is considering getting surgery after the World Finals. Last year, he was strongly opposed to any sort of operation because of his fear of needles.
He now believes he may need to undergo surgery if he hopes to continue his career into his mid-to-late 30s.
“I am going to look into surgery after Finals,” he said. “I am still a little scared for surgery. It is a long time – six months to not ride bulls. I am 33. I am not young anymore.”
Two-time World Champion Justin McBride brings up the question of how strong will Vieira’s shoulder be at the World Finals in October?
Vieira went 1-for-5 in 2014 and finished the season fifth in the world standings.
“Don’t get me wrong. I have always been a huge Fabiano fan,” McBride said. “With this injury and the way he is able to ride, but you look at that last rank bull (Sasquatch). We saw it last year and I hope it is not the same this year, but I think Fabiano, with that injury, gets exposed again at the Finals. Just night after night of those really rank ones.
“I hope I am wrong. I am pulling for him. I love that he is that tough and that good and that he is even able to be in contention. With that shoulder, I just don’t think he can.”
Vieira doesn’t know either.
When asked if he can make a genuine push for his first career gold buckle, Vieira pauses and eventually shrugs.
“I will try,” he concluded. “It is a competition. I don’t know. Last year, I had a chance to win it and I rode hurt and good. I think my shoulder has helped me ride better.
“In my head, I will ride for a world title.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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