ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The hit to the wrist of Denver Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay during a Christmas Eve game against the Oakland Raiders last season sent shockwaves of anxiety through the rookie.
Lindsay knew something was wrong. After all, he had suffered injury before, having torn the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during his senior season at Denver South High School. The memories of the pain, the recovery and the do-it-yourself rehab sessions on the living room floor of his parents' Aurora, Colorado, home are always with him.
"But a lot of has changed this time," Lindsay said. "Like night and day, a lot of night and days."
After spending countless hours with the team's medical staff, the strength and conditioning staff and the training staff, Lindsay has promised, repeatedly, to return to the lineup and remain the Pro Bowl running back he showed himself to be during his rookie season in 2018.
"I'm very thankful [for the Broncos' staff]," Lindsay said as the Broncos' offseason program drew to a close. "They hold the reins back on me a lot. They make sure everything goes well, which they're supposed to. You don't want to go out there and mess up by tripping or falling or by something that's not supposed to happen. I'm itching to be out there, and they know that."
The recovery process is much different than what he endured in 2012. When he suffered that knee injury, his family couldn't afford visits to a physical therapist. Lindsay's "rehab" usually consisted of his father, Troy Lindsay, trying to bend and stretch the injured knee the way he believed a physical therapist might. That process has Phillip Lindsay carrying injury baggage that many players don't. Lindsay has often said he didn't get into any sort of physical rehab with a doctor, or a physical therapist, until he arrived at the University of Colorado in the fall of 2013.
That was more than eight months after he had suffered the injury. And Lindsay has routinely credited Dr. Ted Layne at Colorado as being the person who saved his knee.
This time, Lindsay has immersed himself in his rehab. He has been on the field with his teammates during the Broncos' offseason program but was held out of virtually all drills.
"I feel like I'm very close," Lindsay said. "It's going to come down to the head coach and our training staff to make the decisions. I trust them. For me, I'm going to be ready when it's time. That's it. When they say it's time to go, they say I'm going today, I'll be ready. ... It's a long process, but it's worth it. You can't go out there half injured, half healthy. You're going against these grown men and it's your livelihood. You have to be OK."
It remains to be seen if the Broncos want to put Lindsay on some kind of limit when it comes to his carries, at least early in the season, but the team's new coaching staff, including offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello, knows what it has in the 24-year-old. Last season, Lindsay rushed for 1,037 yards, had 10 total touchdowns and added 35 catches for 241 yards.
"He's just one of the more dynamic players in this league," Scangarello said. "I'm excited to get to work him and the great part is that we kind of know the people around us and what they're capable of. He's a guy that we know is capable of a lot, but again, we're going to want him to do the things he can do best."
Royce Freeman, who was also a rookie last season, and Devontae Booker got the majority of the work with the starting offense during organized team activities and minicamp. Lindsay has tried to be patient as he has watched from the sidelines.
This time, he knows that while the waiting is the hardest part, it's also the most necessary.
"I feel like I'm right on time," Linsday said. "I feel like when they tell me it's time, I'm going to be ready. I'm confident. I'm confident in my abilities. I want to go out there and show things. ... It's just about going out there and earning this coach's respect, the whole coach's staff. ... It's about earning coach [Vic] Fangio, coach Scangarello, all their respect, and I'll do that. That's the type of person I am. I'll never run away from anything."