Detroit Lions receiver Ryan Broyles has been in rehabilitation for basically 18 of the last 20 months.
The best part of his first torn anterior cruciate ligament was that it prepared him for the second.
It all started November 5, 2011, when Broyles blew out his left knee late in his senior year at Oklahoma.
Less than 13 months later, December 2, 2012, he did it all again, this time to the right knee, during his rookie year in the NFL.
In between, there were a few weeks of good health and productive performance, but not many. He’s had to earn his paycheck in the training room rather than on the field.
But the knowledge that he gained from going through the process previously has helped him make a quicker rehab this time. Broyles took part in team drills during the Lions’ mini-camp last month, about six months after his latest surgery.
“He’s had a great rehab,” coach Jim Schwartz said.
Barring a setback, Broyles will be much further along when the Lions open their regular training camp next week than he was a year ago at that time.
“Last year I didn’t know what to expect,” Broyles said of the rehab. “Doctors will tell you things, but you don’t really know how your body is going to react.
“This time around, I knew when I could push it running and when to chill a little bit. It helped me out.”
Broyles’ recovery the first time was slowed because he tried to push himself too much to get ready for the scouting combine and for other workouts for NFL teams.
He knew he had to prove himself before the draft so that he didn’t slide too far. He was considered a first-round pick before the injury.
“I definitely rushed last year,” Broyles said. “They say it’s usually a six-to-nine month rehab. I was running 3 1/2 months after surgery, going full speed, cutting routes. This time, a little bit more rest, heal my knee up a little bit better.”
Broyles, healthy or not, will always be considered a bad pick to some Lions’ fans.
The controversy over selecting a receiver rather than a defensive player in the second round of last year’s draft hasn’t gone away, but there were at least signs last November that indicated it might not be such an awful move in the end.
Broyles showed off his playmaking skills on Thanksgiving Day, when he made six catches for 126 yards against Houston while filling the void left by Titus Young’s absence.
But a week later, Broyles went down for the second straight year. He finished his rookie season with 22 receptions for 310 yards and two touchdowns in 10 games.
After watching him again in mini-camp, quarterback Matthew Stafford suggested that Broyles, a 5-foot-10, 188-pound slot receiver, can be a valuable piece to the Lions’ offense.
“We saw some of that last year before he got hurt,” Stafford said. “He had a really good game against Houston, had some big catches on third down against Jacksonville (six catches for 52 yards). He’s a guy who can be a chain-mover (getting first downs) and at the same time can be explosive in there, some catch and run.”
Despite constantly being in rehab and unable to prove he was indeed worth the 54th pick overall, Broyles’ smile always seems to light up the Lions’ locker room.
“I’m a happy person,” he said. “If I don’t have my body, I have my brain.”
If he can get his body right, Broyles should give the Lions the consistency they wanted from Young but never got.
“I got a taste last year of a little success being in a NFL locker room,” Broyles said. “I want to touch it again.”