He admits he asked, 'Why me?' On the heels of a return from core muscle surgery in the spring, the Bills starting center sustained a concussion in the first practice of training camp. Mitch Morse wouldn't see the practice field again as a fully cleared participant until more than five weeks later.
Finally out of the concussion protocol effective last Thursday, Morse practiced fully with his teammates on Monday and was grateful more than anything.
"It's a blessing to be honest," Morse said of returning to the field. "The game of football is full of tremendous highs and tremendous lows. And unfortunately injuries are some of the lowest parts of this game. It takes a whole village to get you out of those lows, whether it be the staff here, which did an unbelievable job of giving me every tool and resource available, friends and family and teammates."
For Morse, this was not the first time he had been through the concussion recovery process. This was the fourth of his career. He admits having knowledge of how things can unfold did have him concerned about whether something like this could be career threatening.
"I think it's a very fair question and at the infancy of this it's something I really grappled with," said Morse. "It's one of those things where you wonder, why me and am I damaged goods? And then you get past that and you realize that you're not (damaged goods) because a few of these were pure happenstance. You just got the short end of the stick. As long as you're not putting yourself in extra harm you're fine."
Morse went through the painstaking process of seeing every specialist available for guidance on the proper course to take to ensure when he did return to play that he put himself in the best possible position to continue to play.
"In the back of your mind you always wonder, but every single one I talked to said, 'The outside perception of these things is kind of fought off,'" said Morse. "Meaning if you take care of yourself and don't put yourself out there and do precautionary prevention stuff, even if this happens a few more times, it's fine and you'll be fine in the future. You just take care of yourself.
"I feel very confident that I'm going to be fine in the future. We've done all the tests I can possibly do and every one was tip top and all the specialists said I'm going to be just fine."
Scroll through to see the best photos from Buffalo's practice on Monday, Sep. 2, 2019.
During Morse's absence, offensive line coach Bobby Johnson purposely rotated what is likely to be his top seven linemen through a series of different combinations through the course of training camp and the preseason. It was partly by design and partly due to linemen being sidelined in addition to Morse.
"I think the coaches and the guys did a good job because there was constant rotation even when one guys was supposed to be slotted as a starter," Morse said. "We set ourselves up for the fact that football is a game where guys get hurt and I feel we have an accelerated approach to that in case someone has to plug and play. We've gotten familiar with everyone playing next to each other and now I have to work myself into that equation as quickly as possible."
Morse understands jelling with his linemates up front is imperative with the regular season opener sitting just days away.
"There's definitely rust, but I feel like as a player you always think there's something for you to work on," he said. "Maybe that's amplified because of the time I missed. But you're always trying to find a competitive edge, but I'm just knocking the rust off and getting back out there running around again.
"It's an emotional thing to think about getting out there with the guys and finally being able to do what they brought me to Buffalo to do."
"We have full confidence in Mitch and full confidence in our medical staff," said head coach Sean McDermott. "And he's been in meetings, digesting the game plan. And I'm sure he will tell you, he's ready to go."
For Morse, feeling ready will be important in advance of Sunday's season opener against the New York Jets. But on Monday the pivot man just felt fortunate.
"I just love this game. I really do," he said. "People say don't let stuff define you. I define myself as a football player. Not completely, but I love it. It's something I really glad I can be able to play and continue to play for the foreseeable future here in Buffalo."