JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Missing his entire rookie season because of a foot injury was rough on Jacksonville Jaguars running back Travis Etienne Jr., but the 25th overall pick in 2021 managed to find a bit of a silver lining.
At least he wasn't as fully immersed in Urban Meyer's disastrous 11-month tenure -- which ended shortly before 1 a.m. on Dec. 16 -- as his teammates were.
"Just seeing the results, you're definitely like, 'Whew, if there was any year to miss, I missed a great one,'" he said.
Jokes aside, Etienne is happy to be back on the field for the start of the Jaguars' voluntary offseason conditioning program under new head coach Doug Pederson. He said he's still limited in some of his weight-room work but is doing "the majority of the stuff" in terms of on-field work and is 85-90% recovered from the Lisfranc injury to his left foot that he suffered during a preseason game last August. He expects to be fully cleared by training camp.
Etienne said the only time the injury still bothers him is after a long workout. Then it's a little sore.
"It's actually crazy because I was talking to my mom about this the other day," Etienne said. "If I didn't know I had a screw in my foot, I couldn't tell. I feel like that's a testament to where I'm at in my transition and how I'm healing.
"The screw is there. I think I will take it out. I could leave it there forever. I know most guys say leave it there, it never bothers them, but I just don't want to be 40 years old with a screw in my foot, really."
Etienne makes light of the injury now, but he wasn't handling things as well in the days and months after his surgery. The pain was pretty intense in the first 48 hours, and he couldn't put any weight on his foot for six weeks, which left him homebound and a little depressed.
It wasn't until he was able to get back into the Jaguars' facility to begin rehab that he started feeling better.
"I didn't realize it then, but I kind of was in a depressed state, just not being able to do the things I love to do," Etienne said. "It was my foot, so I couldn't do anything. So it was just really weird, and I really didn't realize how much it took a toll on me, but having my mom there, she kind of helped me just stay in tune with myself and not let me lose myself. When I was able to get back into the building to the guys, that really helped me a lot, just seeing them each and every day and just living through them."
It's still too early to know how the Jaguars plan to use Etienne this season. Meyer envisioned a Percy Harvin-type role for Etienne as a rookie, which is similar to the way the San Francisco 49ers use Deebo Samuel. Etienne said he'd be fine with that, but he might have to be the Jaguars' feature running back early in the season if James Robinson isn't fully recovered from the Achilles injury he suffered last December.
Regardless of how the Jaguars use him, they need him to produce the kinds of big plays he did at Clemson. The Jaguars had 31 big plays (runs of 20 or more yards and receptions of 30 or more yards) the last two seasons, which ranked last in the NFL.
Etienne was one of the most explosive players in the country during his four seasons at Clemson. He led all players in the NCAA with 55 runs of 20 or more yards from 2017 to '20. On those big plays, he scored 21 touchdowns and rushed for 2,053 yards, an average of 37.3 yards per rush. Etienne also had six receptions of 30 or more yards, giving him 61 explosive plays.
"I kind of heard bits and pieces from my running back coach [on how he may be used in the offense]," Etienne said. "But I'm sure they plan on getting the ball in my hands. I feel like I'm a special player with the ball in my hands."