Ryan Broyles looking forward to the day he plays without injury

Posted Feb 16, 2014

Ryan Broyles is four months removed from a ruptured Achilles tendon and says he’s back running, cutting and jumping trying to get ready for the 2014 season

Ryan BroylesAP Images

Lady Luck hasn't been on the side of Ryan Broyles so far in his NFL career

The Detroit Lions' second-round pick in 2012 has yet to play a single down in this league at 100 percent health.

He entered the league rehabbing a torn ACL in his left knee suffered against Texas A&M late in his senior season at Oklahoma.

The 10th game into his rookie season Broyles tore the ACL in his right knee vs. Indianapolis.

It went from bad to worse for the NCAA's all-time reception leader this past season, when he ruptured the Achilles tendon in his left leg during the second month of the regular season in a win over Dallas. Broyles was fielding a punt and the Achilles ruptured on him as he tried to get away from the ball deep in Lions territory.

"You put in so much work, you know what I mean, and then something like that happens," Broyles told of his most recent setback. "A week prior (to the injury) I felt a little sore, so my mind already had it in place if something happened I'd be prepared for it, and then it went on me.

"It's never a good deal. I don't really have too many words for it. I just have to get back out there and work as hard as I can and nothing has really changed on that point."

Broyles is currently in Dallas rehabbing and training. He began jogging two weeks ago and recently began running, cutting, jumping and rebuilding the left calf muscle that atrophied after the surgery.

"Every day I'm getting stronger," he said. "I'm four months out and can't wait to see where I'll be 10 months out. Right now I'm happy with my progress."

If there's one thing Broyles learned from the two knee injuries that precipitated his most recent setback, it's not to rush things.

Sometimes that's easier said than done, however, especially for a player who's heard the rumblings from fans and analysts about how the Lions missed on picking him in the second round two years ago.

"I know the deal with the Lions right now and you feel like you have a deadline because there's guys counting on you, especially coming in from the second round," Broyles said. "I feel like I have to go in there and prove something and maybe I did that a little bit before my body was ready (last year).

"This time around I have to just focus on my future. I'm 25 years old right know. I just have to be smart from this point on."

An Achilles is a major injury for any NFL player, but especially for one whose game is predicated on speed and cutting.

Lions running back Mikel Leshoure suffered an Achilles injury as a rookie in 2011 and still hasn't shown the same burst he had in college or in training camp pre-injury.

Broyles knows he has a lot of work ahead of him, but that's never stopped him before.

"I have to start from ground zero every time I have (an injury), so it just makes me focus on things technique-wise," he said. "I might be a little slower initially, so I just have to focus on the small things and get my muscle right.

"I've always been driven. The way I was brought up; my parents were hard workers. I think that's what's keeping me in the fight to this day."

Is it a fight that'll get him on the field in 2014?

Broyles will be about 10 months into his rehab when training camp starts in July. There's a real possibility he spends the beginning of this upcoming season on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list as the Lions try an access his recovery and his future.

Broyles has other plans.

"I'm hoping to hit the ground running," he said of training camp. "I'll be about 10 months out in July so hopefully I'll feel pretty good.

"I've started to do some reaction work, so that's a big deal in football right now. It's not just me saying go and go. I've got the therapist telling me when to go and when to react, so we've picked up on that. Six more months of that and I'll feel pretty good."

The timing couldn't be worse for Broyles' most recent injury. The Lions are in need of some playmaking receivers and are expected to revamp that unit around Calvin Johnson this offseason.

Broyles' goal remains to be part of those plans.

"I want to go out there and produce," he said. "Those guys brought me in two years ago (to produce). If my body is capable of doing it, I want to do it.

"But if not, I have to talk to (the Lions) and talk to my agent and just go from that point. For the time being I have to think about my future and just getting healthy and going out there and playing like I can.

"I haven't been healthy one down in the NFL yet. I'm excited to do that. I just want to prove my worth to all the doubters out there, to be honest with you."

The Lions have already begun the reformation project at receiver with the release of veteran Nate Burleson on Thursday.

"Nate ‘s one of those guys I've always looked up to," Broyles said. "When I came in he was like, ‘they brought you in to replace me and I have no hard feelings on that. Just watch me and take notes and learn as much as you can.'

"He taught me out on the field and I've learned a lot from his mentality off the field. I feel that's helped my development here in the NFL to this point."

Broyles was brought in to be Burleson's replacement. It's now up to him to prove he can stay healthy and be the kind of receiver he was in college, when he set the all-time NCAA record catching 349 passes for 4,586 yards and 45 touchdowns.

"I feel like I had glimpses my first year after I came back," he said of a six-catch, 126-yard performance against Houston in 2012 a week prior to tearing his ACL.

"Last year I didn't hit the ground running like I wanted to, but I wasn't as strong as I needed to be last year. This year my knees are healthy right now. I feel my glutes, back, hamstrings and quads are back. Now I just have to work on my left calf.

"I'm excited for that day to go out there and just be able to cut where I want to cut and jump when I want to cut. I'm going to work as hard as I can and it's going to fall in my favor sometime soon.”