It's been a long wait, followed by a major setback, followed by more waiting. Fortunately Leodis McKelvin doesn't let any set of circumstances, no matter how frustrating, get him down. That attitude along with a resolute determination to get healthy again is why the veteran cornerback was back on the practice field Wednesday.
"We're obviously going to be smart with him and ask him to be smart about it, but there's only one way to get ready to play football. That's to actually get in there and start doing some football drills and things like that so yes he will start at that," said head coach Rex Ryan. "Is he going to be limited? Absolutely."
McKelvin, who was placed on the Reserve/Non-Football injury list at the close of training camp, broke his ankle in Week 11 last season in Miami, which landed him on injured reserve. It was the second time in his career he had broken his left fibula. After the bone had healed McKelvin began the long, arduous process of rehab.
By the spring he looked well on his way to being fit for full scale work come training camp in the summer. But something didn't feel right during OTA practices.
"It was always a deal that I always felt when I was up on my toes and being able to have that last push off my foot," McKelvin said. "You need to get on your toes to be able to play at full strength. I always felt that. Some days I would come in and feel good and other days I might have to take a day off. It always felt that way and never did go away. So when I went back home for a couple of weeks it just never did go away so I just wanted to come back out and check it out and see what it was."
After an examination it was revealed that a second break had occurred not far the original break. The newest break was the result of his first fibula injury back in college at Troy University 10 years ago. He had plates and screws put in his leg to promote healing and to stabilize the bone. But what was surgically inserted in his leg all those years ago was now the reason for his setback in the summer.
"The situation was with the old plates that I had in there from 10 years ago," said McKelvin. "The screws were coming loose from all the pounding and the things I was doing during the rehab. It pushed the plate in toward my bone where the fracture was and it never healed all the way. So the only option was to take out the old screws and plates and put new ones in there."
While his lower left leg is expected to be fine long term, the one thing McKelvin lost in the process was the first six weeks of the regular season. He had to hit the reset button on his rehab. To say he was frustrated would be an understatement.
"Being out since November and going into the boot and then coming out and doing all the rehab training and starting to feel good in the OTAs and starting to run. I'm doing all the drills and running with the guys, competing and making all the (conditioning) times. Then when it happened I couldn't believe it happened," he said.
McKelvin knew there was nothing to be done, but re-commit to the process and support his teammates.
"Things happen for a reason," he said. "Being able to just sit back and work on my craft and things I need to do mentally and physically. Being there for my teammates no matter what. I went to every game whether I had to sit in the stands or otherwise. That hurt me the most because I was real eager to be out there. I guess I put myself in those situations to feel that way and have that motivation to come back full strength."
The good news is McKelvin fit enough to practice. Now the final step is to see how things hold up as he gets back to real football before he's activated to the 53-man roster or available to play on a Sunday.
"I'd say I'm getting there. If I'm needed I would be out there performing," he said. "Right now it's just all about getting healthy and making sure I'm 100 percent, no setbacks, not one day going out there feeling real good and the next day slowing it down. We're going through the process of getting the stiffness out so it's getting better and better. I feel good, but I want to make sure I'm feeling 100 percent."
After all the effort that has been put into to getting back to this point, the Bills do too.