Frank Ragnow is feeling strong, healthy and ready to step back into his position as the Detroit Lions' starting center and leader of an offensive line that is developing into one of the NFL's best.
"I feel great," Ragnow said simply Thursday, describing how he feels participating in the Lions' first week of offseason workouts.
That's a long way from how he felt in Week 4 last season when he limped off the field at Soldier Field in a loss to the Chicago Bears with a season-ending toe injury.
Ragnow, who made the Pro Bowl in 2020 and was regarded by many as the NFL's top center, learned soon how being unable to play made him feel like an outsider.
View photos from offseason workouts on Wednesday, April 20, 2022.
It made him respect more than ever players who've dealt with injuries throughout their careers.
"Being hurt, that was horrible," Ragnow said. "You just get a lot of respect for guys who have to deal with injuries.
"It's gut wrenching. You really don't feel like you're part of the team. You feel like an outsider.
"When you're out there on the field on Sundays and you're in your gear, you're like a gladiator. And I'm out there in a T-shirt and shorts running around. It's a humbling feeling.
"I just gained a lot of respect for guys who battle and come back throughout their career. Major respect for those guys. You realize how lucky it is to be healthy and play."
Ragnow said he was close to being healthy enough to play at the end of last season, but he stuck with the rehabilitation program to guarantee he'd be ready for this season. He's been cleared for full workouts.
"I was pretty normal and doing mostly everything," Ragnow said, referring to his condition at the end of last season.
The Lions have veteran starters at the five positions on the offensive line, and veteran backups such as tackle Matt Nelson and center Evan Brown add depth.
They continue to build chemistry in the offseason.
"Obviously, we'd all like to stay healthy," Ragnow said. "Off the field-wise, chemistry-wise, people don't understand how big that is for offensive linemen. You really have to know how these guys think."
Ragnow remained close to the team last season while he recovered from his toe injury. He is a strong leader, and he provided tips to the offensive linemen.
He was impressed with how the unit progressed throughout the season. He expects it to progress even further this season.
"I think we can be pretty dang good," he said. "It's on us and where we want to take ourselves and how hard we want to push ourselves. They were pretty dang good last year, too.
"If we get going and stay healthy, we can be a pretty good offensive line."