Eagles left guard Brandon Brooks surprised a lot of people by returning to practice the first day of training camp, six short months after suffering a torn Achilles tendon.
Perhaps the only person who wasn't surprised was Brooks himself.
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"Not one bit," said Brooks. "That's what I expected to do."
Though he didn't participate in full team drills on Thursday, Brooks avoided starting camp on the physically unable to perform list, a sign the club is confident he'll be ready to go relatively soon.
Brooks always maintained his goal is to be ready for Week 1 since exiting the Eagles' divisional round playoff loss to New Orleans on a cart in January. Yet, Achilles injuries are notoriously difficult to recover from, with timetables to return often placed in the neighborhood of one year – sometimes longer.
Still, speculation that Brooks might not play at all in 2019, or might not be the same player if he returned quickly was "crazy" to the two-time Pro Bowl selection.
"It's interesting because when the injury happened… it was all of a sudden like my 2019 season was in jeopardy and all this other s---," said Brooks. "To me, it was never in doubt if I was gonna play in 2019. It was never in doubt that I wasn't going to miss half the season. That was never a thought in my mind."
Brooks' timetable for return is ambitious, but not unheard of. He pointed to All-Pro outside linebacker Terrell Suggs' seemingly miraculous recovery from the same injury in 2012.
Suggs suffered the torn Achilles during the offseason, only to return midway through the season and help the Ravens win the Super Bowl.
"I talked to (Suggs) about it," said Brooks. "He came back in like five or six months, so I had to find out, ‘What are you doing?'"
Brooks has teammate and fellow offensive lineman Jason Peters to refer to as well. Peters ruptured his Achilles twice during the 2012 offseason. He missed the entire season, but eventually returned to form, paving the way for a LeSean McCoy rushing championship in '13 and going to four consecutive Pro Bowls.
"It's obviously one thing to be a doctor or medical staff and tell you how it's gonna feel dealing with an Achilles," said Brooks. "It's another thing to be a player that actually tore it, see how he was feeling, some of the issues he was having at the time, or some of the things that maybe I don't know about yet."
But as it turns out, Brooks may have been a little lucky as Achilles injuries go. The severity is not the same across the board.
"Of the three ways you can tear your Achilles – off the heel, more toward the calf and then the middle – mine was the best," said Brooks. "I guess you could look at it that way. It was right in the middle. It didn't retract or anything. It just tore and just stayed there so I was fortunate that way."
Brooks isn't quite out of the woods. For now, he's participating in individual drills, then has "track practice" while the rest of the group does team. Eventually, he'll need to demonstrate he can handle work and contact in an 11-on-11 environment.
The Eagles have a plan. Brooks isn't sure he'll play at all during the preseason, and says he's not worried about that, either. The next step is to ramp up his practice time as Week 1 approaches.
"We'll get the pads on so I can really get some bumpin' in and, hopefully toward the end, slowly integrate me back into practice with the team," said Brooks.
Brooks acknowledged whether he plays Week 1 really isn't up to him. However, he's been optimistic throughout the entire process and continues to believe he'll achieve that goal.
"When you're used to working hard, hard work is easy work," said Brooks. "It was never like ‘I tore my Achilles so it's an uphill battle, it's gonna suck.' That was never my mentality. I know it's gonna be hard. Playing in the NFL is hard. It was just another obstacle in my way."
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