NOVI, Mich. -- Ryan Broyles stepped back, put pressure on his left foot and got ready to explode on his first punt return of the season. When he pushed off looking for that explosion against Dallas, the Achilles tendon he had been leaning on ruptured instead.
He crumpled to the ground. His 2013 season, he knew, was over. It's the third time in three seasons (including college) Broyles has had a season end prematurely due to injury.
Soon after the injury, he flew to Charlotte to have his Achilles repaired by Dr. Robert Anderson, one of the most renowned ankle and foot surgeons in the country.
That was six weeks ago. Now in a boot on his left foot -- the boot comes off in two weeks -- the Detroit Lions wide receiver remains optimistic and confident about his present and his future.
“I’ve been through two [season-ending knee injuries] and some people might say, ‘Why aren’t your spirits down?' .... My body’s got to heal,” Broyles said before an appearance at a "Madden 25" video game tournament at a Best Buy in Novi, Mich. on Tuesday night. “I’m 25 years old so I’m very optimistic about the whole deal and just have to take it a day at a time and when my time comes, I’ll be back on the field.”
When he returns to the field might still be in question. Broyles said the typical recovery time after an Achilles rupture is six to nine months, so there is a chance he could be back by the time the Lions begin training camp in July.
But after suffering two ACL injuries, Broyles has learned not to rush back. He won’t play until his Achilles is 100 percent healed because he doesn’t want to be hurt again. The week before his Achilles ruptured, he had been feeling sore there.
He met with trainers, who told him they couldn’t predict what would happen. He could play on it and be completely fine the rest of the season. Or, it could pop. Broyles asked these questions before the injury occurred because he had been through two season-ending injuries before. He wanted to be safe.
Looking back, he said he might have been overcompensating on his left leg since his right one was still recovering from the ACL injury. The ACL itself, he said, was fine, but he still needed to build strength in the leg.
“There are guys out there right now, 12 weeks into the season, that are beat up, you know what I mean,” Broyles said. “It might hold up and it might not. Mine didn’t and it just popped on me.
“I was trying to make a move I hadn’t made all season, was back there on a punt return and took a step back and loaded the Achilles and tried to explode off of that and it popped. My first time doing punt return so it kind of made sense. I hadn’t been making that move all season basically.”
Broyles’ second NFL season was finished after six games, with eight catches, 85 yards and a serious feeling of déjà vu.
The Achilles injury, he said, is much less painful than when he tore his ACLs. But the recovery process is similar. In two weeks, he’ll be out of the boot and into shoes with a heel arch since all he has been able to do so far is work on range of motion.
Then, as he starts to have more strength in it -- he’s hoping to run in a pool in three months -- they’ll take the heel lift out of his shoes and he’ll be able to both walk on it easier and build more muscle.
One thing is certain, though. Broyles is planning on returning to the NFL and the Lions -- and still having a long career.
“I’m 25,” Broyles said. “And I hope to play until I’m in my 30s sometime. So I've just got to take it one day at a time.”