It was 2003 when linebacker Boss Bailey's career looked to take off just as quickly as his blazing 4.3 40 yard dash time he posted out of the University of Georgia as a hot draft prospect. The 6'3, 234 pound linebacker was a shoe-in for the first round and a great future.
Instead, injury concerns affected his stock, and he subsequently fell into Detroit's lap towards the top of the second round -- a move that the Lions didn't hesitate to make. He posted 88 total tackles in a full 16 game slate his rookie year, and the sky looked to be the limit for the young linebacker.
In 2004, however, it was an entirely different story. Bailey failed to appear in a single game due to a knee injury -- only to get injured once again in 2005 with an ankle injury, again not finishing out the year.
Fast forward to 2006 and Bailey recently overcame one hurdle only to face one of the biggest trials of his young career yet.
"It's no fun," said Bailey, who was lifted off Detroit's physically-unable-to-perform list on Monday after missing the first two days of Lions' training camp. "To watch everybody getting banged up, going through all the blood, sweat and tears, and you're not involved in that."
Bailey's new challenge will be playing middle linebacker for the first time -- ever. From college through his professional tenure, he has spent his time roaming one side of the field as an outside linebacker. The move to middle is a much more demanding position, requiring a more vocal approach and larger responsibility.
But the adjustment that most would see as daunting, Bailey has taken in stride.
"It plays perfectly to my strengths," he said, "The way we play it is perfect for a guy like me. (It's) my dream man - I can't even kid you all. I always envied the middle guys because you get the best of both worlds,; you get to go both ways. You're not one dimensional, so to speak, on the outside. I'm loving it, and I'm going to try my best to make it work."
With freshly signed first-round pick Ernie Sims making headlines during his camp debut, Bailey is even more encouraged to not only take his spot at MLB but a leadership role as the longest tenured linebacker in the starting corp.
"I feel like I'm home again. It was like I (had been) on a vacation or something," added Bailey.
Despite being back into the thick of things, coach Rod Marinelli is guarding his young Lion carefully.
"We have to be smart with him - work him in day-by-day," said Marinelli, "He had him in individual drills and 7-on-7's, we'll just try to work him back in slow. It's a good way to start getting the redirection and some of those things right now."
Similar to the much-maligned group of recievers on the other end of the ball, potential is high with this core of linebackers. But keeping them on the field is the only way to tap into that potential. Of all people, GM Matt Millen realizes this.
"When they're all healthy and in there, we're very talented," said Millen.
As the preseason sun rises over the horizon, a tribulation through injury may be over for Bailey, but a new trial begins.