Remember when Jordy Nelson tore his ACL in the preseason? He went down without contact, but he made his way off the field by himself, and when he walked to the locker room, he wasn’t even limping. It was during a game, so everybody saw it on TV, and people were pretty surprised when they found out he had a torn ACL. It really didn’t look that serious.
That’s what my injury was like.
It was the first day of Broncos OTAs and we were running standard team drills. It was a passing play. I kicked back into pass protection, the defensive end clubbed me on my right shoulder to try to get an inside lane to the quarterback and I planted my left leg to keep my leverage. It’s something I’ve done thousands of times, but this particular time, something was off. It just felt unstable. At the time, I didn’t really think anything of it.
A couple plays later, it got worse. I wouldn’t say it was pain … I don’t know what to call it. It just felt weird, like my knee was kind of shifting around. So I talked to my trainers and sat out the rest of that practice, just to be safe, and they scheduled me for an MRI the next morning.
That’s when they discovered that I tore my ACL.
I didn’t even realize what I did when I did it — there was no awkward bend or twist. I just planted my foot like I do every time I drop back into pass protection, and somehow, I tore my ACL. My 2015 season was over before it even began.
The first couple weeks was the worst part. I thought about the 2013 season, when I tore my lisfranc in my left foot in the second game of the season — in garbage time, no less — and had to have surgery. I was in a cast for six weeks and a walking boot for another six weeks. I missed the rest of that season, including the Super Bowl.
Sitting at home and watching my teammates go on a Super Bowl run made that the toughest year of my career.
Now, after coming back in 2014 and having a Pro Bowl year, I didn’t even make it past the first day of OTAs. I’m out for the season again. And again, we’re 6-0 and look ready to make another Super Bowl run.
It’s tough watching my guys out there winning games and not being able to be a part of it, and just not being around the guys all the time is one of the hardest parts, because rehab is a pretty individual thing. It’s boring. I’m not working out every day with the rest of the team. It’s just me and the trainers.
I’m not gonna lie, after a couple of season-ending injuries, you start thinking about where you sit with the organization. This is a business, and if you can’t stay on the field, you won’t be around long. That’s just part of football at this level.
But once you start rehabbing, you don’t have time to dwell on it. While you’re watching the rest of the guys go out and compete every Sunday and you’re rooting for them, you just gotta keep in mind that when you’re by yourself in the gym rehabbing, they’re rooting for you, too.
As boring and lonely as rehab can get, there’s only one way to get back on the field where you belong.
Suck it up and put the work in.