Carl Lawson plans to be back Day 1 in 2019 following ACL tear

CINCINNATI – The giant brace around the knee of Bengals defensive end Carl Lawson was the only visible sign that he had torn his right ACL just a week before.

Lawson walked through the locker room as if he hadn’t just suffered a serious knee injury. There was no limp, no crutches, and no hint of a change to his gait.

Lawson was placed on injured reserve just a few hours later, making it clear that his 2018 season is officially over.

Now it’s full speed ahead to next year, and Lawson hasn’t slowed down for a second. In fact, he had just finished a workout right before talking with reporters.

While he won’t be doing any weight-bearing exercises for a long time, there’s plenty of other things he can do, and he has no plans to get complacent.

“I’m not going to be sitting at home, getting fat. I’m still going to be well defined,” Lawson said. “A lot of people hear ACL and think, ‘Oh, he’s got to restart from the ground up.’ I’ve only got to fix the knee. I’m not starting from the ground up. I’m making everything else better while I’m fixing the knee.”

Lawson tore his left ACL in the spring of 2014 while he was at Auburn, so he knows what’s coming. That’s probably why he didn’t sound concerned about what’s ahead.

At some point next week, Dr. James Andrews and his team in Alabama will perform surgery on Lawson’s knee. Andrews’ team also performed Lawson’s surgery while he was at Auburn.

“He’s got a squad of like 20 doctors. I don’t think it’s just him. It’s his group, because I remember at Auburn it was the craziest thing I’ve ever seen,” Lawson said. “It was like 'Reservoir Dogs.' They’d come in and 10 of them would be in suits. I was like, ‘Oh. Wow, these guys are legit.’”

Lawson noted that the other knee feels the same, if not better than he did before he got the surgery. So he’s not concerned about that part, or what’s to come after. Lawson, perhaps more than anyone else on the team, is intense about taking care of his body, which is probably why he had ditched the crutches after just a few days.

Lawson attributed that to his quad strength.

“It definitely helps you with your recovery. The stronger your leg is, the faster you’re able to come back,” Lawson said.

Lawson said he has been told crutches can actually hinder one’s natural gait when used unnecessarily. So he stopped using them as soon as he got the OK and will do the same post-surgery when he’s cleared to walk again.

“It definitely helps you with your recovery. The stronger your leg is, the faster you’re able to come back,” Lawson said.

Lawson, though, knows not to push himself so hard he makes the situation worse.

“Main thing is just not overdoing it myself. I’m going to take all the steps necessary to be back next year. It is what it is,” he said. “I’m at peace. It sucks, but I can only control what I can control.”

Lawson is the latest in a line of Bengals to go down with an injury, and he joins fellow defensive lineman Ryan Glasgow on the list of players facing ACL recovery. He knows there was nothing he could’ve done to control it, so he’s not going to sit around and mope about it.

“A lot of guys are going through injury. We’ve just been hit by the injury bug, and surprisingly I was next. It is what it is. You’ve just got to have the mindset to just keep working,” Lawson said.

Lawson said he was thankful to be able to play half a season and feels like he learned a lot in those games. He plans to take what he learned into next season.

Lawson estimated that he recovered from his last ACL tear in about eight months, and he plans to be back on the field Day 1 next season.

“At least now I get to work on, not only my knee but any deficiencies that I had with my body. I’m just going to come back stronger. The only thing that sucks is that I can’t be out there with my teammates,” Lawson said. “That’s the biggest thing. I’m not really worried about the recovery process. I know how I am. I’ll be back. 100 percent. I actually might even be better. But I’m thankful for the experience I had this year and I’ll take that into next year.”