Despite missing the entire 2015 season with a dislocated ankle injury, Niles Paul is already back on the field for the Redskins and showing no signs of being mentally held back.
Less than 12 months after suffering a terrifying injury in the first quarter of a preseason game against the Cleveland Browns, Washington Redskins tight end Niles Paul isn't showing any lingering signs from the dislocated ankle he suffered.
Check out images of veteran tight end Niles Paul during the 2015 offseason.
Not only is Paul back to full health, he looks as strong as he's ever had on the football field. During the first day of veteran minicamp on Tuesday, Paul was not only active in the passing game, catching three different passes from Kirk Cousins including a one-handed snag, but he was fluid in and out of his cuts.
"When I first got out here I was a little scared and I didn't trust it at first," Paul told Redskins.com, referring to his ankle. "But the more I got here, I trusted the process and then I just felt ready. I felt like I could cut and do everything I needed to do."
His quick turnaround has impressed Redskins head coach Jay Gruden, who said Paul's "done an unbelievable job" getting back onto the field.
"We didn't expect him back until training camp, but he was champing at the bit," Gruden said. "Basically, he was in my office all the time saying he was ready to go, so finally I gave in and said, 'Go practice!' He's done a great job, man, so we're excited to see him get back in form."
Before suffering the devastating injury last summer, Paul had never suffered a significant injury during his football career.
Sure, he'd dealt with the dings and bruises that are expected during a season, but never something that forced him to remain on the sidelines for an entire season.
"You're talking to someone that has never been hurt seriously before in my life," Paul said. "I can admit that this was probably one of the more depressing times, having to go through a transition period and not being able to do anything and watch my boys go out there and play every Sunday. It hurt."
Paul was down at first, admitting he felt "sorry for myself." But with the help of a support system comprised of teammates and coaches, he was able to get back up and remain confident that the best is yet to come for his NFC career.
"[Tight ends] coach Wes [Phillips], he wrote me a heartfelt note just telling me how much he believed in me and was encouraging me," Paul said. "I couldn't let those people down man. I couldn't let myself down. I have never quit on anything. Nobody thought I was getting back and I did get back."
After signing a reported three-year deal with the Redskins last offseason, Paul committed himself to bulking up in an effort to become a more complete tight end after a move to the position from wide receiver that started in 2012.
He added nearly 20 pounds before the injury.
Now he's on the road to adding weight once again, but it wasn't quite as easy to pack on the pounds this year.
"It was harder for me to bulk up 20 pounds because I did less running last year and more lifting," Paul said. "I did more running this year, but I'm about 240 pounds and I feel fast. I feel as fast as I was when I was 230 [pounds] and I don't feel a difference in speed. I'll admit when I was 250 [pounds] I was heavier, but I wasn't as fast. I feel like I'm moving well now, coaches see it, and I just feel good, man. I'm stronger than what I was last year."