A Step in the Right Direction

Today, a member of the Carolina Panthers organization probably felt like he had just won the Super Bowl. After having high risk microfracture surgery on his injured knee, hours of rehab, and lots of speculation and a lot of watching from the sideline, Stephen Davis finally did something he's been waiting 10 months to do. He participated in practice with the team.

Davis's teammates met him with smiles and applause as he took the field. Being back with his teammates means as much to Davis as being able to play. Davis noted, "It's been almost 10 months. I appreciate those guys. They've been behind me 100 percent, pushing me along. You can't ask for a better group of guys. It felt good just being out there with my teammates. Hopefully, this afternoon I can go out there and get hit around a little bit. "Ten months may seem like a typical recovery time for most NFL players but for players who have the microfracture surgery, being able to get back on the field at all seems like an accomplishment.

For those that do not know what procedure Davis is recovering from, according to WebMD, microfracture is a surgical technique designed to repair damaged articular cartilage without transplantation. Microfracture is arthroscopic surgery in which a small "pick" (awl) is used to make tiny fractures in the bone where it meets the damaged cartilage. These penetrations create an environment in which new cartilage can grow. A patient undergoing microfracture surgery must use crutches for 6-8 weeks, and not resume ANY sports-like activities for 4-6 months. What makes this medical procedure even more of a risk for an athlete like Stephen Davis is the percentage chance that the surgery won't work and that the player would be forced to retire. Past players like Terrell Davis of the Denver Broncos and Jamal Anderson of the Atlanta Falcons were forced to retire after having the surgery. However, when the surgery took place, Panthers General Manager Marty Hurney seemed more upbeat about Stephen's chances. "I think everybody is different," said Hurney. "Stephen is competitive and has drive and determination. It was just done and it will be a process that takes several months. We'll take it as it goes."

Davis noted that he felt good after practice but realizes that he has to take things one step at a time in order to have a chance to get back to the level he once was. Davis commented on how his knee felt saying, "I feel good about it. I just have to take it one step at a time. Not try to go out there and be a hero or anything. Just do what I need to do as far as getting myself better. It's more mental than anything. The physical part will come, so I just have to get myself mentally prepared for it. I always look forward to contact. But like I said, I just need to be smart about it, not go out there and do more than I need to do. Just take it one step at a time."

Davis is trying to get better in time to play in at least one preseason game but realizes that it's going to be up to the coaching staff to decide how best to bring back the running back. "I'd like to play at least one game in the preseason," said Davis. "That's my goal. I don't know what the team wants me to do. Whatever they ask me to do; I'm going to do it. My thing is to just take it one day at a time as far as getting myself mentally and physically ready, and hopefully, everything will work out for the better."

The biggest thing for Davis at this stage of the game is taking things one step at a time. As a matter of fact, even getting on the field was an accomplishment for Davis this morning. When asked why he was the last one out on the field when the team came out for practice, Davis replied, "I couldn't find my helmet. I think (equipment manager) Jackie Miles hid my helmet on me. I didn't do that on purpose. I wanted to get back on the field, period. I didn't care where it was, Spartanburg, Charlotte or wherever. I'm a football player. I want to be out there on the field with my teammates." If finding his helmet is Davis's biggest challenge at this point, then finding the end zone in the future should be another walk in the park.

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