Colts CB T.J. Rushing Again Looking to Prove He Can Play Corner
INDIANAPOLIS – What T. J. Rushing has been through for nearly the past year was every bit as difficult as he had heard.
A serious knee injury. A grueling rehab.
"It was brutal," he said.
But now that it's over, the Colts' fourth-year cornerback/punt and kick returner said his goals and motivations are pretty much the same as they were before an anterior cruciate ligament ended his third NFL season before it really began.
He still wants to prove to people he belongs in the NFL.
And he still wants to prove he can play corner.
"I think I'm a cornerback that just has the ability to return kicks," Rushing said during the Colts' recent offseason conditioning program at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center.
"Like always in the past, whatever it takes to make the team and contribute every Sunday . . ."
Rushing was ready to do just that last season.
A seventh-round selection in the 2006 NFL Draft, Rushing played sparingly as a rookie, then emerged as the team's top kick and punt returner in 2007. He also established himself as a legitimate reserve corner, and said he believed he was further solidifying himself in that area when he sustained a knee injury in August.
The injury was a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
The Colts placed him on injured reserve, ending his season before the regular season began and beginning the difficult rehabilitation process from a torn ACL.
"You can't even imagine how painful and how tedious the rehab is," he said. "You learn to deal with the pain, but you have to do it every day, non-stop. You can't miss a day. It's months now, just going strong, day after day. It's an up-and-down process. You might plateau for two weeks where you're exactly the same and two weeks before, you were making crazy gains. You never know what the knee's going to do. It definitely plays on you mentally.
"You have to listen to the strength and conditioning guys and the rehab guys. Everything they tell me, I listen to. It's the same for every guy."
But Rushing said as difficult as the rehab was physically, the mental difficulty of knowing he couldn't continue the progress he made in his second season was more difficult.
"It was tough," Rushing said. "I looked at last year like it was going to be a pretty big breakout year. That's what I was hoping for. I guess it got put on pause for one year. Hopefully, I'll have another great camp and have another breakout year this year. It was definitely frustrating.
"It was really my first time living without football. I've never not played. Not since fourth grade. I don't even know how to put into words . . . It just feels like a big part of you is missing. It's what you do. It's what you're used to. You're used to waking up, coming to meetings. As much as you hate it while you're doing it, once it's gone from you, you realize what you're missing."
What Rushing said he mostly missed was a chance to continue the development he made in 2007 – not only as a returner, but as a corner. And it is as a corner that Rushing said he most wants to establish himself this season.
"I definitely think I shocked people with my cornerback play," Rushing said. "When they first drafted me, they told me it was mostly strictly for returner. I thought they were pleasantly surprised with how things were turning around and how things were going, so hopefully we can show them I still have it."
Rushing said he is motivated by just that, showing people he still can play after a season in which because he was not on the roster he said he sometimes felt forgotten.
"It fuels the fire," Rushing said. "When people are talking and your name's not mentioned, it makes you do that extra rep that maybe you missed out on. It definitely adds fuel to the fire.
"Ever since I got to this league, that's the story. I feel like every year maybe they forget what I can do and then they act shocked. It ends up working in my favor, or it has worked in my favor so far. I definitely believe I'm a true cornerback who can play in this system and fits well here and that will shine with the opunity given."