The 2020 NFL season was anything but ordinary for Tommy Sweeney.
The tight end started the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list (PUP) after suffering a foot injury in July of 2020. Then in October, the team placed him on the Reserve/COVID list, and because of the virus, he developed a heart condition called myocarditis. The condition caused inflammation of the heart muscle and kept him out of the rest of the 2020 season. It was a very stressful time for Sweeney as he could have lost his life and he didn't know if he would ever play football again. During this time, Sweeney leaned on the team doctors and his teammates to keep a positive attitude on the situation.
"The heart's obviously a pretty serious thing for us human beings," Sweeney said. "Obviously, it wasn't a good thing, but they were pretty confident we'd be able to get back after we got through that three-month period. So, it was alarming at first, but we were optimistic throughout which I think helped once I got back and at least to put in the rearview and keep rolling."
Sweeney was cleared to start football activities and training back in February. The Bills tight end worked hard to get back in football shape after three months of rest and recovery. Unlike in 2020, Sweeney had the luxury of a full offseason program where he could be in the building and get back up to speed on everything. After practice on Wednesday, Sweeney explained what he was able to get out of OTAs this year.
"OTAs were really good to get my feet wet and start moving again," Sweeney stated. "I stayed here all offseason and the strength and conditioning staff was great. It was three months off, but it was like riding a bike, it took a little bit, obviously, but once you get back into it, you're back in. Thankfully again we had OTAs, and I was able to get rolling then and hit the ground running here for camp. It felt good."
Friday's preseason game against the Detroit Lions will be the first type of game action that Sweeney has been a part of since December of 2019. Sweeney is eager to build off the six games he played as a rookie and wants to prove that he can make plays in this Bills offense. McDermott is proud of the work that Sweeney has put in this offseason and is ready to see what he looks like on the field after his extended absence.
"He's off to a great start," McDermott said. "He's in a good spot. He's worked his tail off. He's been here most of the offseason and in doing so, invested in his career. Tommy's a high-energy, bright-eyed young man that's got a bright future ahead of him. It's good to have him back and healthy again."
So far through training camp, Sweeney has looked good and made the most of his opportunities. These three upcoming preseason games will be a big stage for the third-year player to showcase his talents against different teams as he competes for a roster spot. Sweeney is mentally and physically ready for the challenge.
"I felt good coming back," Sweeney said. "I don't feel like I took a step backwards at all, I feel like I didn't play for a year, but I still feel pretty good. It was definitely a year you never get back, but I think for the most part I didn't lose too much athletically or football-wise."