Aaron Schobel has never been one who lacks confidence. It's part of the reason he's been so successful as Buffalo's top pass rusher the past eight seasons. But with a Lisfranc foot injury robbing him of 11 games in 2008 and set to turn 32 before the 2009 campaign, there are doubters about whether Schobel can be the player he once was.
Memo to the doubters. He hears you.
"For me I'm using it as motivation," said Schobel of the critics. "A lot of offseasons I take off a lot at the beginning of the year, but I feel like I've already got a lot to prove."
Schobel has always prided himself on his production and consistency. The defensive end entered 2008 as one of only two active defensive ends in the league to never miss a game in his career.
But then the foot injury came in Week 4 at St. Louis and Schobel despite his best efforts in Week 5 at Arizona knew his foot wasn't right. Finishing the season with one sack was obviously understandable in light of the injury, but Schobel had tied a previous career low in sacks the season before with just 6.5.
Schobel maintains his foot is improving and did a little work on it the morning of locker clean out day for the team.
"It felt better than it did three weeks ago," he said. "It's getting better. I think a lot of my pain is coming from the bone bruises and not the ligament, which is good."
The two-time Pro Bowl defensive end is due back in Buffalo on Feb. 1 at which time he'll be put through three days of hard football-related activity by the training staff. Then they'll be a series of MRIs and x-rays to determine if the foot had made sufficient progress or if surgery needs to be performed.
If surgery is the call, Schobel's offseason will quickly become more challenging with a six month rehab process in front of him.
And that's why some outside observers are wondering if Buffalo's top pass rusher will be able to recapture his Pro Bowl form.
"People are starting to doubt me," Schobel said. "I'm too old, I'm hurt. That's motivation for me. So I'm going to use that in the future to hopefully come back better and prove people wrong."