Bills tight end Robert Royal knew something wasn't quite right with his knee last season. But already without Kevin Everett and Derek Schouman and Matt Murphy also on injured reserve he knew being unavailable for his teammates down the stretch wasn't really an option. Royal gutted out the remainder of the 2007 campaign at less than 100 percent. Now he's looking to get back to top form following offseason knee surgery.
Late last week, Royal did some of the most vigorous work on the field since his January surgery. Laterally high stepping over eight-inch hurdles may not seem like much, but he was happy to spend some time on the field instead of the weight room even if it's just him and Bills athletic trainer Chris Fischetti.
"I was pretty excited about what I was able to do," said Royal. "I haven't been doing a lot of jumping around and running. I've just been trying to strengthen my quads and my hip as strong as possible and so far I think I'm doing pretty good."
Even though the balance of the roster is on the field working together Royal refuses to let it gnaw at him knowing he cannot yet participate.
"I'm just focused on being here and trying to get better, rehabbing and doing the things I can do to prepare myself to get on the field," he said.
And getting on the field will be important at a position that has a lot of options in terms of players, but no clear cut answers at this point.
"There's no doubt it's unsettled," said Bills head coach Dick Jauron. "We addressed the position to some degree in free agency with Courtney Anderson. I really like the upside to him. Robert has had a good offseason physically so that's a piece. Derek (Schouman) will come back and that's a piece. We went out and got Teyo (Johnson) and we have Tim Massaquoi and we drafted Derek Fine. So it's unsettled, but I like the group. We're optimistic."
Serving as the starter the past two seasons, Royal is hoping to lead the tight end corps again this year. That's why he's spent almost his entire offseason rehabbing his knee in Buffalo.
"Whatever the trainers tell me to do that's what I'm going to do," he said. "I think everything is taking its course and hopefully it will continue to go well so I can go out there and put up some big numbers."
Royal had 25 receptions, a career high, for 248 yards and three touchdowns last season, but is hopeful that more opportunities will exist in the passing game for the tight ends under new offensive coordinator Turk Schonert.
For now though Royal is solely focused on getting his knee right. Although his participation in any OTAs or the June minicamp is still up in the air, Royal expects to be full go come training camp in late July.
"I anticipate doing everything like everyone else," said Royal. "If I'm not ready for training camp it's a setback and obviously we don't want setbacks."