Much like pins held his wrist together so fragile bones could heal, so too was the Buffalo secondary held together in a delicate state for several months.
Both are better now, partially in thanks to Stephon Gilmore's healthy wrist. Gilmore sustained the injury in late August after a preseason game against the Redskins.
"It was miserable. I mean I talked to my fiancé, and my mom and dad, told them I had to have surgery, and it was a six to eight week injury," Gilmore said. "I never got injured before, so it was my first time."
Although he donned his helmet to get exercise in limited practice before he could return, sitting and watching games was insufferable.
"I kind of took it hard," he said. "It really makes you appreciate the game and appreciate being out there in practice."
He found the process of recovery to be tough, but wanted to return as soon as doctors removed the pins. Gilmore said the pain was excruciating, and he watched muscle atrophy set in.
"It was the worst feeling I've ever had," he said. "I couldn't move my hand. I wouldn't want it again."
Gilmore returned in the Week 6 loss to the Bengals after doctors removed the pins from his wrist, but he wasn't 100 percent. He wore a club — a wrist brace wrapped in athletic tape in order to protect the healed bone.
"The club was so heavy, hard to run in," Gilmore said. "It was a challenge for the type of game I like to play — physical, using my hands a lot. It's something that I went through, and I learned a lot from playing with that club on."
Four weeks later, when Buffalo lost to Pittsburgh, Gilmore said he still wasn't right.
"Trying to tackle with it is hard," he said. "I still wasn't using my hand because of the muscle memory. I wasn't used to using my hand"
After Buffalo's most recent game against the Jets, Gilmore said not only was his wrist better, but he played better, too.
"I feel a lot better, I'm actually using my left hand now; playing with confidence like I always have been," Gilmore said. "I'm actually being myself like I was in training camp."
Teammate Jairus Byrd said Gilmore is better due to his efforts off the field.
"He's caught on fast, he's a hard worker," Byrd said. "It's not surprised he is where he's at now. He's just going to try to get better."
Byrd, who also missed the start of the season due to injury, said he relates to Gilmore. He said no player wants to be injured.
"It feels good to get back in the swing of things," he said. "I think we're both starting to feel comfortable with everything."
Byrd and Gilmore agreed the most agonizing thing is watching helplessly while Buffalo plays, but said their secondary persevered through its roughest time thanks to blossoming players.
"You're not out there, not able to do your job," Byrd said. "That's what you love to do, and that's not fun."
"There's always some ups and downs. A lot of guys like Nickell Robey and Leodis (McKelvin) stepped up and played well. And Aaron Williams actually stepped up and played well," Gilmore said. "It's just me wanting to be out there and help my team out. Because I know if I was out there, I could do things to help my team out, but it's something I had to go through."
Gilmore said this, and everything, happens for a reason.
"I think it happened for a reason. I mean there's things that throw you curve balls in life, and you've just got to deal with them," Gilmore said. "Like I said, I learned a lot of things from the injury."
He said if nothing else, he learned how to cope with being injured, he learned to trust in his team, but he also improved his game.
"It helped me in moving my feet more. Not really using my hands like I really want to, just using my feet, and I think that helped me out to where I'm at now," Gilmore said.
Going into the season, expectations were high for the sophomore player. Gilmore expected that of himself, too.
"When I got injured, that was a big thing I had to deal with. Me coming in, I expected myself to have one of the best years to come," he said.
Gilmore said those expectations for him shouldn't be deflated. He plans on living up to them over the last five games of the regular season.
"We've still got a lot of football to play. I'm just going out there to make plays," Gilmore said. "I felt good against the Jets when we played them. I feel better, and the bye week helped too, so I think I can improve upon what I expect myself to do."