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Mental Challenge: Rehabbing a Knee Injury

In an exclusive column, Redskins' defensive back Pierson Prioleau discusses his rehabilitation from a torn ACL injury in his right knee. He suffered the injury on the opening kickoff of the Sept. 11 Minnesota Vikings-Washington Redskins game at FedExField.

I'm coming out of the tunnel at FedExField, and what a sight. It's Monday Night Football, our season opener for 2006.

All pre-game, I'm thinking, 'What are the Vikings going to do on their first play from scrimmage? What's Brad Johnson going to do?' And then came the sequence that I've replayed in my mind every day since: I'm running down the field on the opening kickoff, I see a guy coming to block me, and then...POP. That's the sound I heard from my right knee as my foot seemed to get stuck in the ground.

My entire season was over--after just about 10 steps.

I think about that play every day, and it gets pretty frustrating. But all you can do is try to think ahead and try to make every rehab session the best you've ever put in. You have to stay positive, and that goes for anyone coming off an injury, not just for a guy who's trying to make it back to the NFL level of play.

The thing is, I've been playing football since the sixth grade. Except for a couple of ankle sprains and a hamstring problem now and again, I've never had a serious injury--until this one, a torn ACL in my right knee. This is my first real experience with an injury. Let me tell you, I've learned a lot about knees in the past few months.

For the first two weeks after the injury, it was just a matter of waiting until the swelling went down and trying to regain some of the range of motion.

Then, on Sept. 26, I had my surgery with Dr. [James] Andrews down in Birmingham, Ala. For a week after that, I did light rehab work in Birmingham, and then I came back home. After that, the next few weeks I started rehabbing at Redskins Park, with [Redskins director of rehabilitation] Larry Hess.

I was on crutches for two-and-a-half weeks. That was frustrating at home, because my wife Alicia basically had to take care of me and I couldn't even play with my two kids all that much. I couldn't drive for a month.

From mid-October on, I was a regular at Redskins Park. I rehabbed Monday through Friday, and Saturdays before home games. I never missed a rehab session. It does get frustrating at times, but you have to find a way to press on. By December, I started jogging a little bit.

I was at every Redskins home game last season and I even had a chance to go back to watch Virginia Tech, my alma mater, play Clemson.

Even though I was injured, I wanted to be around the team and be considered a part of the team, but at the same time I didn't want to get in the way.

My goal has always been to be back by mini-camps and OTA workouts in the spring. Since I had the injury really early in 2006, my chances of making it back for 2007 are better than if the injury had taken place late in the year.

I have eight years in the NFL, and this injury has caused me to understand just how much I miss the game. I have eight years in, and I'm really hungry for a few more. I've had a chance to step away from the game and look at it from another perspective.

Overall, it's like this: You can't let an injury take control of you. You have to keep a positive mindset, even though it's hard sometimes. I've talked to players who have had the same injury I had, and they told me it's something you can come back from--if you work hard at it, and if you really want to come back.

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