Offensive linemen are naturally some of the toughest players on the football field, but Detroit Lions center Frank Ragnow takes it to an extreme.
Ragnow is dealing with a painful toe injury he describes as 'the most severe degree of turf toe.'
The injury first occurred Week 4 of the 2021 season and cost Ragnow the rest of the season (13 games) due to surgery and rehab. After having surgery and going through rehab last offseason, Ragnow suffered the injury again Week 1 last year vs. Philadelphia. This time, he decided to gut through it and continue to play.
"It's a deal where it's kind of inoperable, so it's something we're trying to navigate," Ragnow said this offseason. "But hopefully it's not going to be anything near the altitude of last year, where it was, like, brutal. There's no healthy tissue left, so it would have to be an experimental procedure to get that done. And that's not something NFL offensive linemen are in the business of (trying)."
Despite dealing with that injury last season, Ragnow played in 16 games, allowed just one sack, earned his second Pro Bowl nod and is the considered the centerpiece for an offensive line that's one of the best in football.
Hank Fraley played on the offensive line for 11 years in the NFL before getting into coaching and eventually becoming Detroit's offensive line coach the last three seasons. He knows a thing or two about toughness and playing through injury. He said he jokes with Ragnow about the practice time Ragnow misses as the team tries to manage the injury, but said he admires Ragnow's resolve.
"What he goes through, I admire him, and so do the guys in the room," Fraley said. "He's getting to where he needs to be. Mentally he's strong and there for the guys and that's what's great about him now."
It sounds like playing through pain and managing the injury might be Ragnow's new reality moving forward.
View photos from Day 7 of Detroit Lions OTA practice on Monday, June 12, 2023 in Allen Park, Mich.
"I told him to get used to not ever being the same and that's his mindset," Fraley said. "It takes a mindset to do that stuff. When you are talented like him it's hard to see. I can see some of it, but he's going to be fine. It's all in the mind now. He's good. He plays at a very high level.
"I don't know where it will be. He doesn't know where it will be. It might never be the same. That's fine. But he can still be very productive with what he does. I would still say he's one of the top guys in the league even with being hampered a little bit. He looks good."
A lot of players would fold dealing with multiple plantar tears and the pain Ragnow plays through. It's part of the reason his teammates and opponents respect him, besides the fact he's a dominant player in this league. Ragnow epitomizes the toughness and grit the Lions are trying to embody.