It happened in Week 16 last season. In the midst of Buffalo's dismantling of Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos, tight end Mike Caussin went down with a knee injury. He had appeared in three games for the Bills, the first three of his NFL career, but injured reserve was where he was headed next with a torn ACL.
Nine months later Caussin, who has been on the Reserve PUP list, is expected to practice Monday and get back on the field with his teammates for the first time since that Week 16 game last December.
"My understanding talking with (head athletic trainer) Bud (Carpenter) and Mr. Nix and everybody is that Monday I'm going to start and come back and practice," Caussin told Buffalobills.com. "That's when my 21 days begin."
Caussin is referring to the 21-day window that can begin anywhere between the start of Week 7 and the end of Week 9, when players on Reserve PUP can practice with the team for a period of up to 21 days and not count toward a roster spot. After that period of time an NFL club must decide whether to add the player to their 53-man roster or put them on season-ending injured reserve.
The tight end did not have surgery on his injured knee until late January, so Caussin was behind the eight ball in terms of having enough time to rehabilitate the ACL repair and be ready for the season. In the end he wasn't.
He spent most of training camp working on the side with athletic trainers putting him through the rehab paces.
"In training camp when we were at St. John Fisher I ran some routes a couple of days," he said. "Nothing too crazy, nothing full speed. Just kind of baby steps into it. When we got back from Rochester is when we really started doing a lot more agility."
For Caussin the lengthy rehab process was challenging, but having teammates in the locker room that went through the same thing helped serve as a road map for his recovery.
"You definitely have your dark days during it," Caussin said. "It helped having Eric Wood and Chris White going through it before me. Getting feedback from them and seeing where they were. Everybody's case is different, but being able to lean on those guys and them telling me I'll be fine. Just listening to Bud and the whole training staff and the coaches and their confidence in me. It made it easier."
Caussin, who is now ninth months removed from surgery, said his knee did not feel consistently good for days on end until the past month or so. Even six months out of surgery there were good days and bad days.
But with a clean bill of health, Caussin is eager to get back on the practice field and show the coaching staff he's worthy of consideration for the roster. Even if that proves not to be an option there is another move the team could make. Caussin still has practice squad eligibility and could be situated there for the remainder of the season as well, though he would have to be elevated to the active roster first, then released and clear waivers.
"It's fortunate to have that in our back pocket," he said. "Of course I want to be playing and contribute, but it's still nice to have that as an option to keep my foot in the door."
For now though Caussin is just focused on returning to the practice field and putting in a good three weeks to round his game back into form.
"We're going to ease into it a little bit and go from there," he said.