A year after having his second NFL season cut short by a torn pectoral injury in a weightlifting incident, Saffold wondered if he’d once again have to watch the bulk of the season from the sideline.
“It just lets you know about the game,” Saffold said. “I had a long time to think. I didn’t know what was going on in my knee; it hurt so bad that I didn’t know if I’d be back this year. Right now it’s just been a bunch of blessings and getting a lot of help from (head athletic trainer) Reggie (Scott) and a lot of advice from the guys that has helped me get through it.”
Nearly seven weeks from suffering that knee injury against the Redskins, Saffold appears to be on the verge of a return. In Wednesday’s practice, Saffold participated on a limited basis, working mostly in individual drills.
On Thursday, Saffold followed a similar regiment as he continues to strengthen his left knee and work his way back.
“They really don’t want me to go out there and just put everything on the table, especially during this week,” Saffold said. “So thankfully I am going to go out there and hopefully do a little bit more but if they decide to keep me continuing to do the same amount of reps I have been doing now, I just have to deal with that until next week.”
The Rams have a bye week this week which should allow Saffold to continue to get healthier heading into next week’s preparation for the game against San Francisco. It remains to be seen if he’ll be back at full strength in time for that contest though that would ideally be the plan to plug him back in at left tackle for the 49ers.
By his own admission, Saffold is not yet feeling close to 100 percent though he seems to be getting a bit closer with each passing day. In the meantime, he has not missed a single team-related event whether it’s a meeting or a trip to London.
“No, not yet,” Saffold said. “Right now we have the bye week so this is a good time for me to continue to get up and do what I’ve got to do. From being in meetings and all those types of things, it’s been good for me; I am just staying in the game mentally. Every win and loss I have been with this team.”
That Saffold’s knee injury happened in the first place was the result of a freakish incident not unlike the bench pressing one that befell him in 2011.
In the first quarter of that Sept. 16 meeting with the Redskins, Washington linebacker Brian Orakpo broke through for a sack on Rams quarterback
Instead of falling on it, Saffold attempted to save his team some lost yards and ran for 7 yards to the 21 before he was hit low by Washington cornerback DeAngelo Hall.
“I was diving forward and I got my leg stuck in the ground,” Saffold said. “I got hit in the knee, my body went one way and my knee went the other and it’s the same old story that you see all the time. It could have been a lot worse.”
Saffold did immediately assume the worst. His pain made him wonder if his season was going to be over and he naturally turned his mind to the possibility of ligament damage. Much to his surprise, there was no structural damage and Saffold never found himself on injured reserve.
Although he was told he’d miss some extended time, the idea that his season wasn’t over had Saffold quickly motivated to make a return. He has been a regular in the training room and weight room since, doing all that he can to return to the field sooner than later.
“I am constantly working to get back on the field,” Saffold said. “I have been doing everything from doing stuff in the pool to doing a little bit of running here and there and then now I’m being asked to get out there and do some individuals. It’s good for me.”
As it stands, Saffold hasn’t yet been able to get to the point where he is able to do all of the things required of a tackle without some discomfort. He has range of motion and he feels his strength is there but it’s not all the way back.
The nature of any knee injury makes it more difficult to recover.
“(It’s just) feeling normal again,” Saffold said. “You have to have a lot of confidence, especially after you do something to your knee. It’s not an easy task to get a knee injury and then come back and be able to play the way that you want to. They have been constantly working with me little by little so I can have the confidence in my knee and be ready to play.”
As for being ready to play next week against the Niners, Saffold is making no predictions. Instead, he’s just keeping his head down to do the things necessary to make that an option.
“That’s going to be a conversation I’m going to have with my coach, a conversation I have with Reggie,” Saffold said. “If we feel like I am ready to go then I’ll go. But if that’s not an option and they feel like I need to sit back then I will. The best thing I like about this team is it’s a team effort to see whether these players will be ready to go or not. That shows how coaches and trainers and everybody care about the team.”
Either way, Saffold has no intention of doing anything to “rush” back and potentially put his return in question or jeopardize the well-being of the team. He acknowledges the nice job done by
“I’m a competitor all the way,” Saffold said. “I am a loyal team guy so all I want to do is be able to play again and I want to go against somebody else. When it comes down to just being there for my team, I just want to be there.”