Clifton: 'Everything is going great'

Chad Clifton still feels pain from the season-ending injury that he suffered after a blindsided hit by Warren Sapp, but the offensive tackle is determined to be ready by the start of the 2003 regular season. Clifton met with the Green Bay media today for the first time since the incident in late November of last year.<p>

Clifton says that he holds no animosity toward Sapp, but is a little disappointed that the Tampa Bay defensive tackle never called him when he was hospitalized in Tampa for three days after the Nov. 24 injury.

"If somebody would have been injured in Green Bay and be in the hospital for three days, I definitely would see them and check on them," Clifton said. "Not necessarily to apologize for anything, because it was a legal hit, but just to say that 'I'm keeping you in my prayers and I hope you have a speedy recovery.'"

Clifton said that for a week after his injury he was unsure if he would be able to play football again. He was bedridden for about a month, and his wife, Candy, had to help him lift his legs up out of bed so he could stand. He then had to use a walker for a few weeks to get around his house.

Clifton was informed by team physician Dr. Patrick McKenzie upon his return to Green Bay in late November that he would be able to make a full recovery and return to playing football.

"He had done some research and found out more about (the injury)," Clifton said about McKenzie. "He said, 'This is something that you have some residual pain with but more than likely you'll be able to play.' He felt very strongly that I would be able to play again. Everything's been going really great for me right now."

Clifton feels he'll be able to start running in about three to four weeks. He has been under the guidance of Packers trainers daily at their facilities, riding the bike and using exercise machines. He lost about 20 pounds of muscle mass since the injury and weighs about 312 pounds. But he is optimistic that he will be ready to participate in training camp practices by mid-July.

"It's too early to say," Clifton said. "I think we're shooting for training camp. If I can get back for some of the minicamps, it would be icing on the cake."

Here are some of Clifton's responses to questions from the media Friday:

on what he recalled before he was hit by Warren Sapp:

"Brian Kelly intercepted the ball and was taking it back. I was running toward their sideline and most of their defenders were ahead of me and upfield. That's what I was concentrating on, on their defenders. At the very last second I saw Sapp and by then it was too late. As soon as I hit the ground I felt the pain. It was really the way I landed than it was the hip."

on if he feels it was a cheap shot:

"I thought it was unnecessary. We were both 30 yards away from the play, (Kelly) was going out of bounds, but it was a legal shot. You see those types of hits every week in football."

"I don't think he meant to injure me or put me out of the game. As a player, you see those types of opportunities and you take them, definitely."

on what he was thinking after he was hit and taken off the field: "It's a scary time. You're in a lot of pain. Because they haven't had a lot of time to do the X-rays or the MRI, you really don't know what has happened. You know something happened in the hip and the lower abdomen region, but it's a scary time."

on what he is going to say to Sapp, if he calls:

"If he calls, I'll just tell him I'm doing fine, I'm doing great, the rehab is going good. I look forward to playing you guys next year.' That's basically what I'll say that's all I have to say."

on any setbacks that have concerned him:

"We're definitely taking our time with it. That's why we're not trying to run right now. I'm on the bike and on the elliptical machine. If we feel like something is bothering me, if I have some pain in my hip or my knee, we'll stop, we'll lay off of it."

on how he will handle the situation when Packers play at Tampa Bay this season: "I'm sure we'll shake hands before the game and all that. It's going to be an emotional game, but there will be no personal vendetta from me or any of our other players. The game is too big for that. You have to go out and concentrate on winning the game. You can't worry about settling the score with someone."

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