When DeMeco Ryans tore his left Achilles tendon on Oct. 17 against the Chiefs, it was the first major injury of his career. It also left the Texans without their two-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker and defensive captain for the final 10 games of the 2010 season.
Ryans, 25, is making steady progress this offseason toward a return to the field. He recently sat down with Texans TV at Reliant Stadium for an exclusive interview to discuss his rehab, his thoughts on transitioning to the 3-4 under Wade Phillips and more.
Click here to watch the interview. The transcript is below.
You walked into this interview with no cast, no walking boot on that left foot. What's the latest in your rehab status?
"It's feeling good now. I'm just happy to be progressing along fine. I think I'm about three months, three or four months in on the rehab. Time has flown by very quickly. But things are progressing well. Right now, I've just started to do a little extra, do a little running on our fancy treadmill, you could say. It lets me run at a different percentage of my body weight. Right now I'm running at about 65 percent of my body weight on the treadmill, which is going fine. No pain. Everything's just been running smoothly."
Take us through one of your typical days: What time you get here, what kind of stuff you do throughout the day.
"I get in about 8:30 in the morning, start rehab about 9. I spend about an hour just warming up my Achilles in the pool. I get a massage on there for 10-15 minutes. (I'm) doing a lot of stretching. That's the most important thing is just trying to stretch it back out, so I spend a couple minutes stretching, trying to get a little motion in my ankle, a little flexibility in my foot. So that takes a while. Then I start doing exercises like squatting and calf-raises. A lot of different strengthening-type things (like) step-ups, just trying to get that strength back in my calf muscle."
You've been rehabbing at Reliant Stadium for 4-5 days a week since your injury. You've got a lot of other teammates in the training room with you, but has it been hard for you to see light at the end of tunnel?
"Yeah, it's kind of hard. I've been in there a while, and it's weird. I see a lot of guys progressing along and a lot of guys that have came in after me that have had surgeries and they're cleared already. So it's kind of tough, but I have a long road to recovery. Some guys have minor clean-up surgeries; they'll be in there for a couple weeks and they're out of there. So it's like a revolving door through there, but I'm one constant that's going to be there for a while."
Yours is a tough injury to come back from. Do you have any doubts that you'll be able to come back at 100 percent?
"No doubts at all. There's no doubt in my mind that I'll be back, and back stronger and better than I was before."
What have doctors told you along those lines, and do you have a certain target date set for when you'll be 100 percent?
"I don't have a certain target date. Most people that I talk to that have had the injury say it's about a year to be all the way back. I don't have a certain target date. I think I'll be back before, feeling a lot better before a year. I'm just excited to (take) the next step in the rehab process. Hopefully, I can start running on the field in about three weeks. So, I'll just take it the one step at a time. The next big step for me would be getting out on the field and doing some jogging on the field."
What are your thoughts on new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and on switching to the 3-4?
"I'm excited that we have Wade in. Wade is a guy that's very experienced in this league, so he brings a wealth of knowledge that I'm excited and eager to learn from him, learn a different scheme. I've never played in a 3-4 before. I've always been in a 4-3 from high school all the way up until now. So for me, I'm excited to learn something new, learn a different scheme. Just the challenge of learning something new, I'm excited about that. Wade seems like a great person. I have met with him one or two times. (He) seems like a great person and he understands ball, understands defense, and he knows what he's doing."
What are your some of your impressions of your new linebackers coach, Reggie Herring? He has a reputation of being a fiery guy and has been in Wade's system for some time now.
"I met Reggie once. It seems like he's very passionate about football. You can tell it means a lot to him and he loves to coach it. I've heard a lot of good things about Reggie. Everybody says he's a great linebacker coach, so I'm ready to start getting with him and studying some film and learning from him also."
Have you been able to delve into much yet as far as how your responsibilities might differ in a 3-4 versus a 4-3?
"It may be a little different, definitely from my standpoint of playing the MIKE linebacker. Now, you have two inside linebackers. So whether that's me and Brian (Cushing), I'm not sure exactly where we'll be, but I think both of us will be inside guys. So we'll be playing next to each other, which we've done a lot of and had fun doing that. I think it's a little different for us from a 4-3 to a 3-4 where we have to probably take on linemen more so than we did in the past. But my mentality is that football is football. There's nothing totally new about it. It's still 11-on-11, no matter how you line it up."
From what you saw of what Phillips did in Dallas with DeMarcus Ware, what do you think about the prospects for guys like Mario Williams and Connor Barwin as edge rushers in the 3-4?
"I think it'll be great for those guys. It's a defense that opens it up for those guys and allows them to do what they do and that's get after the passer. I think it's going to be good for those guys to do what they do best and that's rush the passer, get sacks, create turnovers."
With the new defense, and with you coming off the injury after watching the end of last season in street clothes, how excited are you about moving forward in 2011 and helping this defense get turned around?
"I'm very excited. I think the most exciting thing for me is just to be out there again putting the helmet and pads on again; just getting back out there with my guys. Getting hurt in October and missing 10 games, it was tough for me to sit back and watch it. For me, I'm just excited to strap it up again and get back out there with my guys."