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Lonely Road Of Rehab

With teammates gone, injured players working to come back


Tackle Brandon Keith does squats Wednesday trying to get his right knee back into shape.

Catching passes didn't interest Nehemiah Broughton.

Regular running was enough rehabilitation for the fullback's left knee, five months after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament. Since his lone company on the Cardinals' three huge practice fields was assistant athletic trainer Jeff Herndon (quarterback John Skelton, working on a bruised knee, later came out to run around himself), Broughton had plenty of room to do whatever he needed.

That's what this time of year is about for those injured players trying to come back. The vast majority of guys have scattered for now, knowing that (barring a work stoppage) they will return in March.

In the meantime, Broughton – who lost his chance to be the team's starter when his knee imploded in Chicago – wears a bungee cord around his waist working on his comeback. Starting right tackle Brandon Keith walks a treadmill and does squats to strengthen his knee. Linebacker Will Davis (foot) and defensive lineman Kenny Iwebema (knee) plug away surrounded by a basically empty locker room.

"You are used to everyone being here but this is what the offseason normally is like," Iwebema said. "I don't like to get away from it too much. My mind tends to wander."

Coincidentally, guys like Iwebema, Keith and Davis already were among those who came often to the Tempe facility during the offseason anyway. Yet this is less about putting work in as much as getting back on the field ready to play like they were never injured.

No one is driven more than Broughton, who thought he had finally conquered his seventh-round-!pick-from-The-Citadel status before getting hurt.

It was the third time Broughton had torn an ACL and the second time in his NFL career (the first was his right knee in 2007).

"I was always the bubble player and to get here and have opportunity where you have won the starting job and then to get hurt before you even show what you are capable of, that was a big hurdle to get over," Broughton said.

Broughton said he knows he can "only control what I can control," but is hopeful he will get another chance to be the starter.

The others haven't dealt with the loneliness quite as long. Each played half the schedule before ending up on injured reserve in November, pulling the rug out from under them mid-season.

"Just like that, going from playing to not playing, it's like being fired," Iwebema said.

There is little question each dealt with it in different ways, depending on the circumstances. To a man, having to sit around and watch games being played without them took its toll. Even in the victories, Keith said, "I was happy but deep down, I wanted to be out there."

While players on IR don't have any requirements team-wise, Davis made the effort to attend as many meetings as possible, to try and help his younger teammates if he could and to stay mentally in the game.

That's not always realistic. The rehabbers are alone for real now, but during the season, they frequently are in the weight room or training room while all their teammates are out at practice or in meetings. The other times are reserved for the players who can still contribute.

"You understand," Iwebema said. "That's what happens when you're on the outside."

Outside for now, with the intention of soon being back inside.

"It's something you have to thrive on, getting ready and coming back better," Keith said. "I just look at it like an early start to offseason workouts."

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