Monday was a big day in the rehab schedule for Pro Bowl center Frank Ragnow.
Ragnow ran for the first time out on the turf at Detroit's indoor practice facility in Allen Park since undergoing surgery for a toe injury suffered Week 4 in Chicago.
"I was pretty pumped about it," Ragnow told reporters.
When the injury first occurred, Ragnow thought he could gut through the pain and play through the injury.
It turns out the injury was more severe than Ragnow first thought, and he ultimately made the wise decision to get it fixed with surgery and was placed on season-ending injured reserve.
"Yeah, I really didn't have an option, which I thought I could try to play through. Because pain-wise, I think I could have handled it," Ragnow said Monday. "But player-wise, I don't think I would have been nearly the player that I needed to be to help this team."
Ragnow said he completely ruptured the Plantar Plate ligament in his foot.
"I think because it completely ruptured, at first I thought I could completely deal with it because there wasn't much pain," he said. "But from a functional, balance and a movement standpoint, it was very unrealistic for me to think that I could be the player that I could be. That was what was so frustrating for me, because I thought I could tolerate it, pain-wise."
The Lions lost arguably the best center in football for three-fourths of their season, but maybe the silver lining was Evan Brown stepped in and proved he can be a starter in this league and provide great depth at the position. Brown is a free agent this offseason.
Ragnow says he's a little bit ahead of schedule in his recovery and will be able to have a normal offseason. He hopes in a month or so he'll be full go.
"Just not being too aggressive, but yet being aggressive," he said. "Straight line running right now and then we'll start doing more football stuff. If it works out, we'll be good."
Ragnow was just one in a number of injuries the Lions suffered upfront along their offensive line this season, but that unit still played pretty consistently all year. That's obviously a credit to offensive line coach Hank Fraley, but also to Detroit's personnel department for having players like Brown, Tommy Kraemer and Matt Nelson ready to step in and fill the voids.
"I can't say enough about him as a coach, how he coaches us, how he communicates, how he keeps everybody ready and coaches everybody the same," Ragnow said of Fraley. "It's incredible, man. It's been great to see those guys step up. I saw some things – we had a pretty good season running the ball this year and I'm so frustrated I wasn't able to be a part of it. But to see that, with as much injuries as we did have up front, and the different lineups, it's great for the future."
Getting Ragnow back next year will be a big boost for Detroit's offense. He's one of the top centers in the league, both as a run and pass blocker. He runs the show upfront and the Lions did miss him, even with Brown filling in well.
Imagine a season next year where from left to right the Lions start Taylor Decker, Jonah Jackson, Ragnow, Halapoulivaati Vaitai and Penei Sewell for most of if not all season. On paper, that's one heck of a starting five, and can be the foundation for some big leaps for Detroit's offense in 2022.