Earlier this month, defensive tackle Brandon Noble participated in practices for the first time since he severely injured his left knee during a preseason game against the New England Patriots last August. Noble's next test? He'll increase his workload during training camp in July and August.
Noble remains optimistic he'll be on the field for the season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sept. 12. It would be a remarkable accomplishment given the severity of his injury. Noble spoke recently with Redskins.com about his comeback:
Q: When did you know that you'd be able to make it back from the injury?
A: "I think that after the surgery I had a better feeling for how it was going to be. Before the surgery, to expect to be practicing by now, it was a little bit far-fetched. Now I know there's a light at the end of the tunnel. I'm definitely excited and looking forward to training camp."
Q: Was the rehabilitation the hardest you've ever had to work in your football career?
A: "I had never been injured before, so yes, this was the hardest I've ever had to work. But hard work is something that comes naturally to me. It's never been a problem for me. I just looked at it as another challenge. Hopefully I won't have any setbacks between now and September. That's my goal. Just go out and play against the Bucs in Week 1."
Q: How difficult was the rehabilitation?
A: "It got old. There's no question about it. It's tough to sit in the trainer's room when you've been in the locker room you're whole life and out on the field competing. Teammates come through and they talk to you, so it's not like you're completely isolated. But at the same time, you're not completely a part of the team--breathing and sweating together."
Q: Was there a point you ever doubted you might be able to make it back?
A: "Initially, right after the injury occurred, there was a lot of doom and gloom about the whole thing. But after the surgery, after they put me back together, the prognosis was a little better. They said it was all on me--it was up to me to work hard, up to me to get my knee stronger again and how much pain I could deal with and how hard to push myself. It's been a long road and I've made it this far. I went into [the rehabilitation] planning on playing football again. Now if I go out there and I can't play anymore, then so be it. But I had to go through this process and either do it or not do it. Right now it looks like I'll be out there on the field this September."
Q: How anxious were you about getting back out on the practice fields?
A: "I was pretty anxious. It was a relief after the first couple of plays--just like it'll be a relief the first time I go out in full gear and the first time I play a game. It felt good just to come out here and work with the guys."
Q: How does your leg feel now?
A: "It feels good. My first goal-line scrimmage will let me know where I am. I've been very fortunate in that [the rehabilitation] is something that hasn't been very painful. It hasn't been something that's been too much of a struggle. It's just a matter of working hard. After the surgery, when I came out of that, the doctor said there would be no reason that I couldn't play this fall. I think that made me believe that all I had to do was work."
Q: From a rehabilitation standpoint, you've had to focus mostly on your legs. What kind of shape is the rest of your body in?
A: "Most of my focus has been coming in here [at Redskins Park] and getting my leg rehabbed. By the time I'm done with that, I feel like I'm ready to go home. It's not easy work. But I've been able to get back into it. I think I'll be all right. I'm not overly worried about the rest of my body because it took a year off from the hitting and pounding. My shoulder feels good. My hands and elbows feel good."
Q: Do you ever wonder if the Redskins' performance last year would have been different if you had been able to play?
A: "I don't know. You can't go back and look at it like that. It's tough to say what would have happened. I'm a nose guard. It's not like I'm a 10-sack defensive tackle or I'm going to score 10 touchdowns. But I bring some leadership to the locker room and I bring some leadership to the field. I think that would have helped last year."
Q: What are your early impressions of Gregg Williams' defense?
A: "This is a fun defense to play in. It's really aggressive. The nose guard isn't quite as much a stationary piece that sits there and takes double teams all day. They tell you to be aggressive and get after it. If the linebackers get blocked, then I have to go make the play. That allows you to play more aggressive and play defense the way it's supposed to be played--where you're attacking the offensive linemen and you're attacking the line of scrimmage."