Tearing your ACL can be a devastating injury to anyone, let alone if you just happen to be a football player. So when Terrell Thomas injured his left knee for the third time during training camp a year ago, many people figured that even a young and resilient player like he would have too much of a mountain to climb.
But guess who’s back and fighting to regain his old starting job?
“Physically, I feel great,” says the New York Giants cornerback. “Until it’s tested, we won’t know. Life happens, so you can’t complain about it.”
During the offseason, the Giants’ medical staff took a somewhat less aggressive approach to Thomas’s rehab and they didn’t push it as hard as they did in 2012 before he reinjured the knee.
“I am ready for camp and cleared by the doctors to participate in practice and drills.”
Participating for the first time in live team drills on August 12, Thomas showed little signs of rust in breaking up an Eli Manning bomb to Victor Cruz while lined up as the nickel back. Looking like his old self, the 2008 second round draft selection appears to have taken the correct approach and not overworking or rushing the knee.
“I did a lot of spin classes because it has no impact on the knee,” he said of one part of his offseason training program. “It helps build a foundation around the knee, strengthening your quads, hamstrings and glutes. It also creates a balancing act, so you don’t have to overcompensate for the knee injury.”
As far as doing compound movements such as squats, Thomas chose not to include them in his repertoire. “I’m not limited in any way in the weight room, but (squats) will not tell you if you’re ready to play football.”
As a sophomore at the University of Southern California in 2005, Thomas experienced his first ACL tear in the left knee and was able to come back strong from it, running a 4.39, 40-yard dash post-surgery.
He played in 12 games for the Giants as a rookie in 2008 and then was named one of the two starting corners before the 2009 regular season began. He performed well and had five interceptions, as well as the same number the following year. Thomas was settling into his own and became a regular for Big Blue and was in contract negotiations in 2011 when he blew out his ACL in a preseason game against the Chicago Bears.
“It was a big blow,” he recalls. “The timing couldn’t have been worse.”
Subsequent surgery and being placed on the injured reserve list ended the season for Thomas, who went through the same rehab he did six years prior. He was even ahead of schedule by participating with his teammates at the beginning of training camp in 2012 before the worst that could happen did.
“It was a case of bad luck,” he says somberly. “I did a movement that I had done 1,000 times before. I was healthy, ready to go and fully cleared by the doctors. But it felt different from the other injury (2011). It didn’t swell up or look that bad.”
Unfortunately, an MRI revealed that Thomas had in fact done more damage to the left knee. So he had to undergo another surgical procedure and now finds himself fighting to get back the spot that was his not that long ago.
“I just want to get on the field and be healthy,” he says. “The biggest test will be completing a full season. I’m not worried about starting. I welcome the competition.”
By climbing the proverbial mountain this far, Thomas has shown that major injuries are merely bumps in the road.
Photo courtesy of the New York Giants.