*For the first time since breaking his right fibula in November, running back Chris Thompson hit the practice field for some running drills, the next step in his rehab process. *
Understandably, running back Chris Thompson has had a pretty boring winter. Or, as he puts it: "My life is just watching TV and hanging out."
Actually, he amends, that's not entirely true. Thompson, a self-professed video game nerd, has been addicted to the new XBOX game "PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds," playing it nearly every day for the last couple of months. Before his walking boot came off in early February, he would also occasionally go to the mall, but kids would stare and comment, he says with a laugh.
"Little kids would be pointing at me, like, 'Dad, look at his foot,'" Thompson said.
They won't be laughing anymore. Thompson has been out of his boot for more than a month, but on Monday he began running on the team's indoor practice field for the first time since breaking his right fibula in a November game against the Saints.
He documented his milestone on Instagram, which shows him running through a series of ladders and sprinting in quick, 10-yard bursts. The speed at which he accomplished this first trial surprised both Thompson and team trainers.
"I was little nervous about it at first but as I got going, I stopped worrying about it," Thompson said Tuesday afternoon. "I was so worried about putting any pressure on it but it felt way better than I expected it to."
Thompson's primary concern isn't related to the fibula so much as the ligament damage in his ankle, which came as collateral when his bone broke. Most of the caution over the next month will focus on his foot – monitoring the soreness in his Achilles, a result of it being casted for a couple of months – and building strength to begin planting again.
"Once I get over that hump, everything else is just starting to work towards being able to make cuts," Thompson said. "My deceleration is another big issue, too, because I'm having a problem right now just kind of stopping on a dime. I can't really do it, because it's pretty early. It's a lot that's going to be mental as well. In the next couple of months, we're hoping to see some drastic results, some good results, and pretty much go from there."
At this point, around halfway through the recovery and rehab process, the challenge for Thompson turns mental. The next month will be a good indication of how his feet and leg are responding to the increased workload, some of which has already begun with lower body work in the weight room to work on flexibility. But it will also test his confidence and belief in his body.
Thompson's doctor believes he could begin doing drills as soon as OTAs, enough for Thompson to catch some passes during the individual portions of practice (getting accustomed to a new quarterback's throwing delivery) and work on the side fields, slowly initiating him back into football shape. The real work will come in training camp, when Thompson projects he'll be ready to suit up and begin participating in team drills.
"They're going to still take it slow with me and slowly me get into the rhythm of practicing and doing football stuff again," Thompson said. "It's still different. Until you're in there doing team drills, you're not in that football form."
If you're looking for Thompson to begin a daily video account of his comeback, you'll be disappointed. The running back keeps a low social media profile, but felt obligated to post about his return to the field because of the barrage of concerned fans asking him how his recuperation has gone.
The Instagram video, which his girlfriend edited together, is a friendly reminder that you don't need to worry about Thompson's work ethic or desire to get back to football.
"That was more so for them to know, to see that I'm feeling good and everything," he said. "I don't know if I'll be doing it continually…[I might post] at the point where I start cutting again, and maybe a few weeks or month, to keep them updated, but I won't be doing a full day-by-day, that's not my thing."