JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Terrance Knighton's vision is nearly back to normal and his waistline is smaller than it's been in years.
Both are encouraging signs for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Although Knighton remains on the physically unable to perform list, the run-stuffing defensive tackle has been a pleasant surprise for the Jaguars in training camp. The player nicknamed "Pot Roast" showed up weighing "sub-330 pounds" and with vision that is closing in on perfect.
"I feel great and I'm just ready to get out there now," Knighton said.
That's welcome news since there were serious concerns about his health just three months ago.
Knighton injured his left eye while trying to break up a bar fight in early April. Knighton was hit on the top of his head with a bottle, which shattered, and a piece of glass cut his eye.
The lineman needed staples in his head and stitches in his eye. He temporarily lost vision and required a second eye surgery to remove a cataract that formed for protection. His vision slowly returned and has steadily improved with every optometrist visit. At an appointment last week, he was able to read some letters on the 20/20 line. He has 20/15 vision in his right eye.
"The doctor is very happy with the progress, and there's nothing really holding me back now from being out there," Knighton said.
The Jaguars are being cautious, though. They don't want to risk putting him in contact drills until his eye is fully healed. He has eight stiches left to be removed.
Coaches and front-office personnel expressed concern in April that Knighton's injury, which didn't allow him to work out as vigorously as normal for several weeks, could lead to weight gain. Knighton has fought to keep his weight down since Jacksonville selected him in the third round of the 2009 draft. He ballooned to about 370 pounds during the NFL lockout last year.
But in the final year of his rookie contract, Knighton has extra motivation to stay in shape. He lost about 20 pounds in the past two months and looked noticeably leaner when he arrived at camp.
"He looks good," coach Mike Mularkey said. "I appreciate the efforts he's made to get him to that point. It's taken some work on his part. It's going to take him as much to stay at that level. He's not just going to work up to it for five weeks and, 'OK, I made it; it's over.' It's every day from here on out. He's got to maintain that. That's going to be harder than what he just did."
Knighton could end up being the team's feel-good story of camp, and maybe a much-needed one. After all, the Jaguars are without disgruntled running back Maurice Jones-Drew and first-round draft pick Justin Blackmon, and Mularkey raised eyebrows around the league by instituting fines up to $10,000 for players who publicly talk about injuries.
Players insist they have no problem with the rule.
Jones-Drew and Blackmon are much bigger concerns for Jacksonville.
Jones-Drew failed to report, his latest attempt to get the team to renegotiate his contract. He has two years remaining on a five-year, $31 million deal that was front-loaded. Blackmon's holdout centers on language the Jaguars want in his contract to protect them in case he has a third alcohol-related incident. He pleaded guilty last week to aggravated DUI in Stillwater, Okla.
It's anyone guess how long they're absent.
Knighton, meanwhile, should be back to full contact soon. The eye injury gave him quite a scare, but the faster-than-expected recovery and the weight loss have him believing he can have his best season.
"I feel like I'll be a lot quicker, more explosive," said Knighton, who has 198 tackles and 5½ sacks in three seasons. "I want to be on the field when it's third and long. That's where guys make their mark in the league -- getting to the quarterback. I feel like now that my weight is down, I should be the guy out there on third down making an impact."