Wide receiver Ryan Broyles knew the tedious, grueling task he faced. A year after Broyles' NCAA record-setting Oklahoma career ended with a torn left ACL against Texas A&M, Broyles suffered a torn right ACL. At the time, he was midway through his rookie season with the Detroit Lions.
Broyles said the one advantage the second time was he didn't have to rush his rehabilitation.
“Last time I was getting ready for the draft,” Broyles said in a telephone interview with The Oklahoman. “I was running probably earlier than I should have been. It was still a little tender. This time I got a little more rest and focused on the little things.”
Detroit officials held Broyles out of the preseason opener Friday night against the New York Jets. Broyles, though, said he's ready and could have played. He has no doubts he'll be ready for the Sept. 8 season opener against the Vikings.
“I've been practicing every day,” Broyles said. “They say after ACL surgery you usually need about one year to get back and two years to where you feel like nothing ever happened.
“My left leg I'm about a year-and-a-half out. I feel 100 percent on that one. The right one I'm only about eight months out. I still have a ways to go but it's secure and strong enough I've been able to do everything. I'm hoping they let me play (in this week's preseason game).”
Broyles tore his right ACL Dec. 2 against the Colts at Ford Field. Broyles tore his left ACL 12 months, 27 days earlier at Owen Field.
“It was exactly the same, a complete tear of the ACL,” Broyles said. “But this time, the timetable was a little different. I was able to manage things better. I feel good. I'll do the best I can with the opportunity I have and see how it pans out.”
After his injury at OU, Broyles ran for scouts less than five months after surgery, two weeks before the draft. When Broyles clocked a 4.57 in the 40-yard dash in mid-April in Norman, scouts informed him they had seen enough.
“At that time I had no idea what the future might hold,” Broyles said. “You don't have a team. I had to show as good a results as possible. I pushed myself early and got on the treadmill a month ahead of schedule. I probably wasn't as strong as I needed to be.”
There was speculation that the NCAA's all-time leading receiver (349 career receptions) might slip in the draft because of the knee injury. Detroit, though, selected Broyles in the second round with the 54th overall selection.
With this injury, Broyles didn't have to rush the rehabilitation process because he had job security.
“It was different,” Broyles said. “This time I managed the swelling, managed the pain so I could get stronger.”
The injury derailed what was turning into a promising rookie season. Broyles was inactive for the first two games and wasn't in the Lions' regular receiver rotation through October.
But when veteran Nate Burleson suffered a season-ending broken leg in the team's sixth game, Broyles was given regular playing time. He took advantage.
Broyles compiled six-catch games against both the Jaguars and Texans. He finished with 22 receptions for 310 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 14.1 yards per catch.
“I feel I definitely made a statement, showing everyone I could come back from that injury and produce at a high level,” Broyles said. “The stability is there (in my right knee) but your explosiveness takes some time to get back.”
If Broyles can remain healthy, he will be part of a dynamic offense led by quarterback Matthew Stafford. Last season, Detroit finished third in the NFL in total offense, second in passing offense.
Opponents often double team All-Pro receiver Calvin Johnson, which allowed Broyles to take advantage of man-to-man coverage.
“Ryan could have a big impact in this offense,” said tight end Brandon Pettigrew, who played at OSU. “He's willing to go over the middle and make those tough catches. After he catches it he accelerates and gets up the field quickly. He can do it all. He was playing very well before he got hurt.
“He looks great. He's been running great. I expect him to have a great year.”
Broyles is on a team that wants to prove it's the same team that ended a 12-year playoff drought two years ago, not the team that finished last season on an eight-game losing streak to finish 4-12.
“We feel everyone is counting us out,” Broyles said. “Being the underdog you have to work really hard.”
Broyles knows all about working hard. Does he feel cursed to suffer two torn ACLs a year apart?
“It's definitely something I never expected,” Broyles said. “I feel good. I have the heart of a warrior, a mind that is ready to attack anything that comes my way.”