It was only a matter of time, but on Thursday that time came as Aaron Schobel was placed on injured reserve ending a long season marred by a Lisfranc foot injury.
Schobel suffered an almost completely torn ligament in his left foot near the bottom of his big toe just before halftime of the St. Louis game in Week 4.
"When it happened I never thought it was more than just something that hurt me for that play," Schobel told Buffalobills.com. "I played the whole game on it. And then the next week it was pretty sore and I shot it up and from then on it was a little different."
Schobel never appeared in another game the rest of the season.
Buffalo's training staff was diligent in their efforts to help get the team's top pass rusher back on the field, and there was a moment of hope that would happen when he practiced last week leading up to the Miami game, but the results weren't positive.
"It didn't go like we wanted it to or he wanted it to last week and the foot is sore, so we took a couple of steps back," said head coach Dick Jauron.
Schobel believes the pain is due mainly to a bone bruise as the torn ligament is allowing the two bones in his toe to rub against one another.
"The only time I really have pain is when I push to my right," said Schobel. "It's my left foot and if I push to my right where the ball of my big toe sticks in the ground and it rolls, that's when it hurts. That's why I felt I couldn't play in last week's game. It just got worse as the week went on. But it is better and that's why I'm hoping it just heals."
So are the Bills. According to Schobel, who flew home to his native Texas home in Columbus this week, surgery has been put off for now but is still a possibility if the ligament cannot heal on its own.
"I'm going to come back before the year is out and we're going to try to do some more work and then I'm going to come back again the first of February and work it hard and if it's bothering me then, then I have to make a decision."
That decision will be surgery. Between now and February Schobel is hoping the gap between the bones of his big toe is reduced and the bones are effectively held in place by the scar tissue now forming around the damaged ligament.
"That's what they're waiting on to see if the scar tissue holds it in place where it doesn't shift," Schobel said. "If that works then they won't have to do the surgery. They said that could take up to a couple of months. But if it's not good by the first of February then I'll probably have to do something."
Rehab off of surgery takes about six months as a screw is inserted to keep the bones from shifting. So naturally waiting any longer than February first is not an option if the Bills want their best pass rusher ready in September.
"We don't want to wait until March or April and find it still hurts and isn't normal," he said. "We don't want to be in April and having surgery and then it's six months. The best thing is to give it enough time to heal on its own and then if it doesn't then we've got to do something."
There have been other prominent players in the NFL that have had Lisfranc foot injuries. Most recently fellow defensive end Dwight Freeney of the Indianapolis Colts suffered one of the more severe kinds of Lisfranc foot injuries. Surgery was deemed necessary immediately in November of 2007 and by the close of training camp the following August he was back up to speed.
"Mine was two millimeters his was five," said Schobel of Freeney's injury. "That was the gap. It's based more on where it's at in the foot. Philip Rivers had it and he didn't end up having the surgery."
Schobel hadn't missed an NFL start in his eight-year career until this injury. In fact high school was the last time he missed a game.
"Ninth grade," said Schobel. "I played two games had a hamstring injury and missed five games and since then I hadn't missed."
That's why sitting and watching his teammates struggle has been hard for him to deal with.
"I feel like when I'm in the game I think I make the team better so to see them struggle, it sucks," said Schobel. "Being hurt really makes the season longer because you don't have anything to do and you're generally unproductive. I really believe we're on the right track, we just need a couple of more players to step up."
Schobel says he sees his teammates doing all they can on the field each Sunday and it bothers him that he can't contribute. That's why he knows this offseason will be the most unusual one he's experienced in his career.
"Usually when the offseason comes I look forward to it and I feel like I earned it, but not this year with the injury," said Schobel. "I know it's part of the business and people get hurt. I'm just not used to being one of them."