I’m feeling a lot better from when I sustained the injury against the Rams. The biggest part about not being able to play isn’t the pain of the injury — it’s the pain of not being out there on the field with my teammates, and leading them to victory.
Coming out of the tunnel in Atlanta for the first time in Week 2 and looking across the sideline to see the Rams, with the horns on the side of their helmets — it was quite different. I’d always been in that uniform. So to come out of the tunnel and see some old familiar faces, it was strange.
But once the whistle blew, we all knew that we had a job to do. I was fortunate to stay in the game long enough to at least score the first touchdown, which was meaningful to me. The one thing I do regret is that I didn’t get to roll the dice in the end zone because I was so upset about the injury that I had sustained.
I’m still new, and I’ve only really been able to participate in one game, so I have a lot of pressure on myself. I want to come in and make a huge impression on this team and on this city. So I’ve just been really focused on getting back healthy, and once I’m back on the field, being an impact player.
But I have to be patient. That’s just part of being mature as a player. I know my body, and I have to make sure that I’m right. I don’t want to come back too soon, and just be an average guy on the football field. When I come back, I want to be 100 percent healthy and be the dynamic running back who can catch the ball, run between the tackles and do all the things that I’ve done.
I have to make sure that I’m ready for the latter part of the season more than anything. That’s what I’m focused on, and that’s what I remind myself as I’m rehabbing daily.
We’ve had a lot of injuries as a team early this season, but you never want to use injuries as an excuse. Every team goes through it, and you just hope and pray that when some of your guys are down, the rest of the team is able to go out, take care of the opponent while you’re down and get a win.
Then once you come back, do so with a vengeance. We’re just trying to lick our wounds and get as many guys back healthy as we can, to get the starters back on the field and pick up from where we left off.
Though I haven’t been on the practice field, I’m still preparing and taking notes like I’m going to be the starter. It’s still my duty to be tuned in to what the game plan is. If another running back asks me a question, I want to be able to give him the answer or tell him what I would do in that situation. So that’s one way that I stay dialed in.
Also, interestingly enough, because of the spot that we’re currently in, I can draw from my experience being on teams that posted losing records and show guys how to maintain a consistent approach to the game regardless of the record. You just come in each and every day willing to work harder at honing your craft, highlighting things that you feel you can do better in a game and making that the focus of the week. Those are the things I’m doing, and those are the things I will continue to do throughout this year.
It’s a very calm but serious approach that has been taken for this week. We had a great day of practice on Wednesday, and we want to continue to have the same enthusiasm and the same execution throughout the week so that come Sunday, guys are just reacting and not thinking too much about their assignments.
We’re aware that we’re a 1-2, but once we hit the practice field, there’s no sense of stress or a dark cloud. There’s no panic. We’re simply approaching it knowing that we’re better than a 1-2 team, and we need to get back to the way we did things before, starting from the foundation that has been laid out here in years before.
We always talk about stopping the streak at one in terms of losing games. When you lose to the opponent the week before, you want to make sure you don’t allow it to spill over to the next week.
BACK TO BASICS
The one thing about us as an offense that we showed in the last three games is that when everybody is executing, we’re rolling. When we’re executing, we’re hard to stop. We have threats all over the field, and we can move the ball with ease.
But where we have allowed ourselves to trip up and become our own worst enemies is when 10 guys are doing something right and one guy makes a mistake. That throws off a drive. When you have those things happen, it’s hard to overcome. We have to learn to put out those small fires. People are going to make mistakes, but we can’t have so many in a row that it gets us out of the rhythm that we’re in.
I saw a lot of that in this past week’s game against the Miami Dolphins. We expect a lot of ourselves, and we know the type of offense we want to be, but we have to go out there and do it. We can’t just keep assuming that we have so much firepower that we’ll be able to execute with ease.
After last week’s loss to the Dolphins, we’ve come to the realization that we have to go back to doing the small things correctly. That’s a good lesson for us to learn. Although we can be explosive as an offense, if we don’t take care of the little things, that tends to come back and bite you in the end.
We don’t want to get bored with the basics. Sometimes people just get out of rhythm. It’s that way with anything in life. You just take things for granted. But I think that was a good lesson for us as a team to learn, and for me personally, to see that still 10 years into the National Football League, you can never get bored with doing the fundamental things correctly.
Another thing I’ve learned in these first three weeks of the season: Although we have a ton of experience and a lot of credibility, we still have to do what the play asks us to do.
When you play with a team that’s very youthful, there’s a lot of energy and young players kind of breathe life into you through the enjoyment of being in the NFL, and being able to compete week-to-week on Sundays. It’s so new to them and so fresh to them, and they live in that moment.
Being back on a veteran team again, guys understand how to have fun and when to turn on the seriousness. Leaders are stepping up and communication is being emphasized. That’s the great thing about football: It takes all 53 men on the roster.
I’ve noticed around the league that a lot of teams that are “elite” franchises have stumbled out of the starting blocks early. Part of that is good for the NFL. It’s good to have games that are not lopsided, and for teams that were thought to be rebuilding or a year or two away to come out and play impressive football. It makes for intrigue and drama within the league from week to week.
But what I’ve learned over the years is that it’s not about how you start, but who gets hot at the right time. As long as you can continue to improve as a team, get healthy as a team and go into November and December with a lot of confidence and chemistry, anything can happen.