METAIRIE, La. -- New Orleans Saints linebacker Victor Butler returned to practice on what he described as a "super limited" basis Tuesday for the first time since he tore his anterior cruciate knee ligament in June.
Butler remains a long shot to return to the Saints' active roster this season. But Tuesday was the deadline for players on the physically unable to perform list to begin practicing this season. The Saints now have a 21-day window to decide if they want to activate Butler or place him on season-ending injured reserve.
"I know where I hope to be [in three weeks]. But 21 days feels like a lifetime away from now," said Butler, who said he is physically able to do everything now -- but still in moderation.
"I feel like in moderation I can do anything anybody else can do -- and maybe [more]. But football is not played in cone drills and bag drills. It's played when you put a helmet and some shoulder pads on and you go out there and make football plays. And right now I don't know if I'm there yet, not having had the chance to go out there and make football plays. So it all comes down to if I'm ready to do that."
As optimistic as Butler is, he admits that he isn't aware of any players who have successfully returned from a torn ACL within six months. Even in this new era of remarkable ACL recoveries, it still took players like Adrian Peterson and Robert Griffin III nine months before they returned to game action.
"We've got some pretty good nine-month guys. But I don't know of any six-month guys. You know, I'm pushing so I can be that guy," said Butler, who joined the Saints as a free agent this summer after spending his first four years with the Dallas Cowboys.
Butler said his rehab has been going well from all indications, but he couldn't specify whether he is ahead of schedule. He said his biggest hurdle over the next three weeks will be trying not to go "above and beyond" to try and speed up the recovery pace.
Coach Sean Payton said the team will just monitor Butler day by day, adding that "it was good to see him out there."
Butler said it was good to be seen.
"It was fun. I was super limited, but just to get out there and get in the linebacker individuals and feel like you're a part of a team again, it felt real good," said Butler, who said he's excited his teammates have been having so much success -- not that it makes things easier. "If we were 16-0 or 0-16, not playing football really just makes me sick to my stomach."