What began as a routine tackle in last year's preseason game against the Cowboys ended with a "freak incident" of a pectoral injury for Rams inside linebacker Micah Kiser that caused him to miss the rest of the season.
Now fully healthy, he's eager to make up for lost time.
"Just a regular tackle, and just everything just ripped off the pec," Kiser said during a video conference with local media Friday. "I can't really explain it, but it happens and God gave me that challenge and I have been working to get over it. A lot of people in this organization have really helped me with that. I'm just happy to be back and just thankful for this opportunity."
For Kiser, the setback was a disappointing end to what was shaping up to be a promising second NFL season.
After appearing in all 16 games and making four tackles during his 2018 rookie season, Kiser was slated to start at the other inside linebacker spot alongside Cory Littleton, per the team's unofficial depth chart. Rather than helping Littleton man the middle of Los Angeles' defense, Kiser instead had to spend the next five months rehabbing the pec injury.
However, the University of Virginia product didn't let the injury serve as an excuse for not staying connected with the team.
"Last year, even though I didn't play, I feel like I got like ten thousand mental reps," Kiser said. "So, I always tell guys, like even if you're not in, like you can still get a lot of reps. So, just me being here, being in the building, my football and football smarts never really dipped off at all because I was always in the meetings and super engaged."
Though the COVID-19 pandemic forced NFL teams to temporarily close their facilities earlier this offseason, it didn't have a negative impact on Kiser's rehabilitation. He was in the clear by the time the shutdown took place in mid-March and set up a home gym in his garage to get his workouts in during the virtual offseason program.
In addition to those workouts, he also worked on improving his change of direction and being able to play in space and make plays on the ball. It was all part of his plan to develop into a more complete and flexible linebacker – something he learned from Littleton.
"Micah has been a guy who has done a lot of nice things," McVay said of Kiser through this stage of training camp. "You see the instincts, you see the awareness. Great communication ability. Been attacking at the football, he's forced a couple out with some good attempts that our guys are coaching really hard. His feel for the game, he's got an innate feel. Football makes sense to him and it's been good to see him out here healthy and we're optimistic that he's going to be a big contributor this year."
Teammates are glad to have him back on the field, too.
"Oh man, it's dope. That's the homie right there," Rams outside linebacker Samson Ebukam said in a video conference following the team's scrimmage Saturday night. "He's been very vocal, very talkative, like he always is. We just kind of needed that at the middle linebacker spot and he's definitely brought a renewed energy."
A big opportunity potentially awaits Kiser this season. After missing out on a starting role last year, he is competing for one again this year and has been getting first team reps in practice.
And if you're wondering just how determined he'll be, consider this: He stayed in the Cowboys game four more plays after suffering that pectoral injury because he didn't want to waste any opportunities while competing last year.
"Five months is a long recovery, but I stayed at it, stayed focus, and I'm just ready to show what I got," Kiser said.