In the first 114 games in Texans history, there was one constant in the team's starting lineup: Chester Pitts. Now, the affable left guard is a constant in the team's training room.
The training room is full of on-the-mend players at this time of the year. Pitts, recovering from a right knee injury that ended his 2009 season in Week 2, is usually the first one to arrive and the last one to leave. He shows up daily for rehab at Reliant Stadium at 7 a.m. and doesn't leave until 4 or 5 p.m.
"They try to run me out of here," Pitts, smiling, said of the Texans' training staff. "They're calling me the 'offseason killer' right now. I'm putting in my full 8-9 hours a day. I go Monday through Friday, and then Saturdays I normally come in and I'll just ride the bike or do the elliptical, do a little bit of cardio just to get a sweat and get a good stretch in."
It's been 162 days since Pitts injured his knee in the Texans' Sept. 20 road victory over the Tennessee Titans. He had major surgery three days later and arthroscopic surgery on Dec. 16. The December scope, according to Pitts, showed that his knee is making good progress.
"It's healed up now to where you can't tell where the defects are anymore," he said. "I've gone down and seen (noted athletic surgeon) Dr. (James) Andrews, and he and Dr. (Walter) Lowe (the Texans' team physician who performed his surgery) said the same thing: That my knee couldn't look any better. I still have about a month before I get it as strong as it once was. That's really all I have left to do. It's structurally sound again, so that's a real blessing."
For nine weeks after his surgery, Pitts was on crutches, unable to bear weight on his right leg. After getting back on his feet, Pitts had to teach himself how to walk again.
"I'd come in and I'd focus just on that day," Pitts said. "I'd think about looking at my chart, looking at all my exercises, and I'd get myself ready and do whatever it took to get that work done for the day. And I'd do the same thing the next day. I kind of get upset at myself because I want to be ready now, but it's getting better every day."
The rehab process has been entirely new to Pitts. He didn't start playing organized football until he walked on at San Diego State. His most severe injuries in college were a concussion that kept him out for a week and a sprained ankle. He not only started the first 114 games in Texans history, he played 3,884 consecutive snaps from 2002-06 and missed only seven total plays in his first seven seasons.
Think it was difficult for him to have to watch most of the 2009 season from the sidelines?
"The week after my injury, kickoff of the next game against Jacksonville… Oh, man," he said. "I wanted somebody to throw a rock and hit the ball in flight and have them say, 'We're going to cancel the game; we're going to wait 'til Pitts is healthy again.' But you know, that's just not how it goes. The world keeps on turning."
Pitts hopes to be healthy enough to do some unassisted light jogging in about a week. He's also scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on Friday. As he works back to good health and waits to see where he'll be playing football in 2010, he already has his eyes on another streak.
"I'm shooting for another 114," Pitts said. "I've got to get another 114."
Judging by his dedication to getting back on the field, it wouldn't be a surprise if he did.