Players coming off of injury often have redemption on their mind while on the road back to full medical clearance to play football again. For Torell Troup redemption might be an understatement.
At this time last year Torell Troup was working out like a madman. Performing his own two-a-days in the gym with the lockout compromising team's offseasons, Troup was working his way toward adding 13 pounds of lean muscle to his frame. Strengthening his core and his legs to win the trench battles his position demands on every snap, defensive line coach Giff Smith could clearly see a difference the first few days of training camp.
Before that first week of camp was over however, a broken hand would slow Troup's progress. Unfortunately it was a sign of things to come. Despite making his back and his core a primary focus in all of his offseason training it could not prevent the injury that robbed the defensive tackle or what he was hoping would be a breakout second pro season.
"It was the last preseason game against Detroit," Troup told Buffalobills.com. "I played that whole game. I was on some painkillers because of the broken hand and I was going to play a lot more. I played really well and then all of a sudden over the weekend my legs started to get tight. The painkillers started to wear off and I was just feeling horrible.
"I still tried to go out to practice thinking I could run it off and maybe I was just tight. I went out to practice Tuesday and I really couldn't move at all and the pain just came out of nowhere. It was to the point where I couldn't do anything."
Troup had suffered a fracture in his lower spine, which along with a bulging disc caused an excruciating amount of pain. He would be inactive for the first three games before trying to play Week 4 at Cincinnati, with limited success. He shut it down for Week 5 and played sparingly the next five weeks.
He tried to suit up for the second meeting with the Jets in Week 12, but his back had enough.
"The whole year was just brutal," said Troup. "The Jets game on the road was the point where I couldn't take it anymore. I fought through it the best I could all the way through the season up until that Jets game. Coach Gailey came up to me in the locker room and said, 'Don't worry about it. We know you've been fighting all year and we know you are resilient so if you can't go we know there's something wrong. You should stay back here and lay down and relax.' It was definitely heartbreaking not being able to finish the season with my teammates was horrible."
Less than three weeks later doctors would perform back surgery making incisions at the base of his spine and on his side to fix the disc and the fracture. If Troup thought the pain was bad leading up to surgery, what he experienced post-surgery was worse.
"I got up off that hospital bed and the day after surgery I was wondering if I was going to walk anymore," he said. "It was that painful and I was on painkillers. It took so much out of me just to walk 50 feet. So to think about starting all the way over again was very hard."
But Troup did start over less than a month removed from surgery. After players went their separate ways at the close of the regular season Troup got right to work on his rehab. Rehab that is still ongoing now.
"I'm in the gym right now and doing rehab. There's no letdown," he said. "I'm trying to get back to the point I was before the 2011 season. I know I can get there and I know I can play in this league. I just have to be healthy. The freak accident last year (fractured spine) hopefully won't affect me this year. I just have to stay positive. That's the biggest thing."
The goal for full medical clearance so he can return to the practice field again is training camp. Much like Kyle Williams and Eric Wood, Troup is taking a measured approach to return to full live football.
"The Bills have been very vocal with me about taking the proper approach and we're all on the same page," he said. "We want to be ready for camp and maybe even a couple of weeks into camp. We don't want to rush anything and come back too soon. I had a major surgery and sometimes I don't look at it as a major surgery until I talk to the doctors."
Troup has not had any setbacks since his surgery and is hopeful he'll be able to do more running to boost his cardiovascular strength as OTAs begin next week and get his legs used to the pounding again.
Troup is confident he'll be back on the field ready to go come Week 1 of the 2012 season, but for him that's not the end goal.
"My goal is to show everyone that I can play at this level," he said. "I know I can. I'm smart enough and physical enough to play at this level. I want to look back at the end of the year and celebrate knowing I completed all my goals and did everything I set out to do and move forward from there. Stepping on the field in September is going to be important, but finishing the year is what's going to be big for me."