Every summer leading up to training camp Buffalobills.com asks 25 of the most pressing questions facing the team as they make their final preparations for the upcoming regular season. With Year 3 under head coach Chan Gailey and veteran player report day at St. John Fisher fast approaching, here is the latest daily installment as we closely examine some of the answers the Buffalo Bills have to come up with between July 24th and Sept. 9th.
It's a question that we'd prefer not to address and unfortunately for Eric Wood it's a question he's had to answer before. In Week 10 last season Wood tore his ACL on a non-contact play. Following an interception at Dallas, Wood turned to pursue the ball and his knee buckled. The injury cost him the last seven games of the season. He's come back from a severe leg injury already once in his career. Can he again return to form a second time?
In his rookie season Wood sustained a gruesome compound leg fracture breaking both the fibula and tibia and was not on his own two feet again for four months. The rehab was grueling and though he returned to the practice setting the following training camp, his reps were closely monitored and rest days were a necessity.
"What really hurt me coming back from the leg break was the leg was still weak where I remember I twisted an ankle and it kept me out two weeks of camp," said Wood of his last long-term rehab. "Then I practiced a week before the opener and played pretty well against Miami, but I put so much into it to get to that point that I could only practice two days the following week. We go to Green Bay in Week 2 and I play terrible. So I want to get it to where I'm practicing consistently."
That's why Wood skipped all of the spring workouts this past May and June. While he could've participated in some of the work, he and the athletic training staff wanted to take a more methodical approach so that come training camp there would be fewer restrictions.
"I feel great," he said. "I'm in great shape and obviously I haven't tested it in any practice or anything, but a lot of that is just being cautious. We didn't want to do anything in the spring that would set me back. The goal is to be back for the first game and I trust the guys in the training room to get me back to that."
Wood expects to be full go at training camp, but doesn't know whether he'll be allowed to take on a full workload of reps in practice day in and day out.
"Yes," said head coach Chan Gailey when asked if Wood would be ready to go for training camp. "Now whether he can practice every day, it might be every other day to start with and then work him slowly in. But I expect him to be ready to go at camp."
"I've done full speed running and full speed drills on my own," said Wood. "So when I do get going I won't feel like I'm working at 80 percent. Hopefully I'll be working at 100 percent, whether that's every play with the ones or three out of four (plays) I'm not sure. I'm just going to do what they tell me because they worked me back from one major injury."
The big difference however, between this injury and the previous one, is he's much further ahead coming off his current ACL tear than he was from his compound fracture.
"Strength-wise I'm definitely ahead," he said. "I went 16 weeks non-weight bearing on the broken leg. With this I was walking in probably two weeks. Strength-wise at four months they pretty much said that whenever I'm comfortable I'm ready to go strength-wise, so since then I've just been doing running drills and plyometrics and all that to make sure when I do hit the field I'm ready to go.
"It's definitely less severe and coming back to it and not having to teach yourself how to absorb your weight again like I did after the broken leg, that's been a lot easier this time around. The first time I did drills with the O-line during the spring, it didn't feel as foreign as it did the last time back."
So with training camp closing in the prospects are extremely positive for Wood, who continues with his rehab regimen in anticipation of not only practicing on a regular basis, but doing it at the same level at which he was playing last season.
"This time around I'm more patient in realizing that September 9th is what matters," he said. "I feel from a confidence standpoint that people know what I can bring to the table. My hope is game one that I'm picking up where I left off last year. I felt pretty good about how I was playing when I got hurt last year. If I can get back to that point and progress from there I'll feel pretty good where I'm at."