Washington Redskins defensive end Stephen Bowen soaked in the moment as he returned to the field on Sunday afternoon.
After suffering a season-ending knee injury in a Week 11 matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles last season -- requiring major surgery -- Bowen began the 2014 campaign on the team's Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. So after spending the first six-plus weeks of the season preparing his body, Bowen on Wednesday was cleared to return to practice, and on Saturday was activated to the team's 53-man roster.
In the Redskins' 19-17 win over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, Bowen entered near the end of the first quarter. In limited time, he recorded an assisted tackle.
"It was exciting," the Hofstra product said. "It's been a long time since I [had] been out there playing with my brothers on the D-line. It was great. I just soaked it in."
Admittedly, though, Bowen said that it took a play or two before he was finally settled back into the rhythm of the game.
"Once you get that hit, get hit in the mouth one time, reality sets in," he said. "You're just playing football again."
Upon his return, defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said that Bowen would be slowly worked back into the rotation. Having not seen serious action in quite a while, he began on the scout team in practice before eventually rejoining the first- and second-team units.
Returning to game action on Sunday, Bowen lined up alongside his best friend and former Dallas Cowboys teammate, Jason Hatcher. Together from 2006 as rookies for Dallas until 2011 when Bowen joined the Redskins, they've been reunited in D.C. after Washington signed the 2013 Pro Bowler this past offseason.
Hatcher, who said he'd been waiting on this day "forever," said he was glad to see his comrade padded up and on the field once again, and hopes to see even more of Bowen next Monday night, when the Redskins travel to Dallas to take on the Cowboys.
"I'm happy he got his feet wet," Hatcher said. "We're going back home to Dallas. It's going to be a big deal, so hopefully he can get more snaps than he did tonight, but I watched him today and he looked pretty good."
After doing his part to help end the Redskins' fuor-game losing streak on Sunday, Bowen said he was more focused on contributing to a victory than he was with his own personal performance.
"That was the most important thing," Bowen said. "I'm happy to be a part to contributing to us winning, but it's a team sport. That's the beauty of football, that we did it together, that we got this win."
With a game now under his belt, the nine-year veteran is ready to get back to business and build off the win as the Redskins prepare for their nationally-televised matchup against the Cowboys.
"It starts in practice, working hard and working on your technique and try to eliminate the mistakes and try to build off this win," Bowen said. "I got my feet wet a little bit today and [I'm] just looking forward to building off our success as a team."