Bills linebacker John DiGiorgio went down on a punt return tearing his ACL on a non-contact play in Buffalo's Week 7 win over San Diego last season. Now six months removed from surgery, DiGiorgio is getting closer and closer to once again being football ready.
"I would say I'm just a little ways off," DiGiorgio told Buffalobills.com. "Not back to 100 percent quite yet. I've been doing some running and doing some cutting and just strengthening everything and regaining flexibility. Everything has been improving over the last couple of months. I've noticed significant gains of late and I'm doing real well."
Despite all that progress however, DiGiorgio is not going to be ready to participate in the team's OTAs which get started on May 18.
"Everything is real encouraging just going out there and running and going out there and working on some of my pass drops," he said. "There's still a little hitch in my gait when I'm running so I'm trying to work that out. Everything structurally looks good and the doctor said everything looks good. Time will heal it and I'll be ready for training camp most likely."
There is an outside chance that the fourth-year pro will get to participate on a limited basis in the mandatory June minicamp, but at this point it's a wait and see situation.
"That's something that I set a goal to be ready for and just talking with the trainers and talking about all the progress we've made, we just don't want to take any chances of not being ready for training camp," DiGiorgio said. "So as far as the minicamp in June it's just where I am at that point in time."
For DiGiorgio the rehabilitation has been tough at times. Despite playing football since the fourth grade it's the first major surgery the linebacker has experienced.
"To miss the majority of the season last year and get hurt and have to watch the last 10 games and watch my teammates go out there and battle was difficult," said DiGiorgio. "It was hard to see those guys after a loss because I wanted to be out there trying to help them win."
Fortunately for DiGiorgio a lot of those same teammates have buoyed his spirits as he has diligently plowed through the lengthy rehab process.
"I've had a lot of good support from guys that have had this injury like Lee Evans, who would come in and talk to me and ask me how I'm feeling and give me some advice having had the same surgery," he said.
With Alvin Bowen also suffering ACL tear before him and James Hardy tearing his ACL after DiGiorgio did last year, a rehab fraternity of sorts cropped up in Buffalo's training room this offseason, with each guy helping the other through the different stages of the recovery process.
"When I had my surgery and I felt I couldn't even lift my leg up, I'd look at Alvin Bowen who was doing single leg squats at two months," said DiGiorgio. "So that was my encouragement was to work hard to get to where Alvin was at, and I think I was in that same role for James Hardy. He would always ask me questions about how my leg was feeling and how much I was doing on the single leg squat and single leg press. And I think he was trying to work up to where I was at."
Where DiGiorgio figures to be at come training camp is on the field. At that point the linebacker will be between eight and nine months out of surgery and he should be good to go. The question is will he line up solely at middle linebacker or might he also challenge for a starting role on the outside?
DiGiorgio has filled in on the outside before playing the weak side position once before in a game two seasons ago.
"I know the coaches have asked me to learn all the positions," said DiGiorgio of the three linebacker spots. "Going into my fourth year I think they expect me to learn all of those positions. I've played the weak side linebacker position in our scheme and I felt like I could play that position if called upon. I'm open to competition and trying to play and compete with some of the guys on the outside if it came to that. I think I would enjoy that."
For now though DiGiorgio is focused on finishing his rehab and getting football ready for when things really matter.
"The main goal is to be ready for training camp," he said. "We'll be closer to the season and the pads will be on and that's when the majority of the competition will take place. I think with the way I've been progressing I should be ready by then. I'm optimistic that I will be."