Against the St. Louis Rams in Week 3 this season, Chicago Bears fullback Evan Rodriguez sprained the MCL in his left knee. The injury held him out for the following two contests, yet he returned to duty last week against the Detroit Lions.
Bear Report caught up with E-Rod this week and talked with him about his injury, his return to action, his progress as a rookie and much more.
"I can't tell you how excited I am to be back. I feel a lot better and am more-than ready to be back on the field. I feel blessed to be back and to be healthy.
"As a rookie, you need to be so careful to keep up with what is happening in terms of your learning curve. I'd never been injured before in high school or college, so it was a new experience for me. What I did in order to keep learning was to stand on the sidelines and watch everything that was happening on the field all of the time.
"I'd been switched around as far as positions are concerned before I went down, so I thought that as long as I was out, I might as well do a little role-playing. I imagined myself in almost every position on the field except for center and quarterback.
"I spent a lot of time watching the vets and trying to pick up their techniques. Then I'd study game film. It's surprising how much you can learn that way. Now that I'm back, I'm going through the motions that I studied when I'm out on the practice field. So far, what I've learned seems to be helping.
"In my downtime, the Bears playbook has once again become my new best friend. I studied it before of course but there is so much in it that I find something new every day. My goal with all of this studying is to be able to translate what I have learned into action on the field. I have found that the better I understand what is going on, the faster I'll be. Speed in any position is one of the most important things you can have at this level.
"It's tough to see your teammates out there having fun while you're on the sidelines. You want to be a part of what they are doing. One thing that was very important to me was the support from the other players. They saw that my spirits were down in the beginning, so they got right in there.
"Now that I'm back what I need to overcome is being conscious of my injury in terms of trying to protect myself. I find that I am thinking about it before a play begins but once we start, I'm focused on what's happening on the field. I need to progress to the point that its out of my mind completely.
"I had continual support from [my teammates], whether it was a pat on the back in the locker room, an invitation to go out to dinner or a phone call to my house. They asked me questions like ‘how are you doing' all of the time, and that kept me going. They always made me feel that I was still a part of this team and that they were looking forward to my return.
"[The Lions] game was an interesting one. I'd heard a lot about the Black and Blue division and that game would definitely qualify for that. It was extremely physical.
"I have a lot of respect for the Detroit Lions. It was a hard-fought game. They are a young team and they play with tremendous intensity. Obviously winning was extremely important for both teams. We want to keep our positive momentum going and the Lions want to stay in the playoff picture.
"Actually, Tahir Whitehead, one of my former teammates from Temple was playing for the Lions. We caught up a little before and after the game. Our college team has quite a few rookies now in the NFL. It's always good to see them.
"We have a short week ahead before the Sunday game. I don't see that as a problem. We're all professionals and having a day less to prepare shouldn't be a problem. Personally, I'm well rested and eager to get out there."
Beth Gorr has been covering the Bears for the last 12 years and is the author of Bear Memories: The Chicago-Green Bay Rivalry. She is currently working on a second book about early Bears history.