After two knee surgeries, Virginia star slowly working his way back to the field
Some would call this boredom: sitting in a meeting room for months on end, watching film of other players, knowing your season ended before training camp even began, knowing your future was in question because of two knee surgeries.
Chase Minnifield considered it a blessing.
Yes, he did.
"It wasn't the year I was expecting," the Redskins cornerback said. "But it wasn't an all-the-way-lost year."
That is how Minnifield survived a second knee operation in six months, focusing on the future rather than the past. The future is uncertain, but he can paint a promising picture at least. The past, at least the previous year, was rough.
The first surgery took him from a potential third-round -- or even second-round -- draft pick to going undrafted. The second one took him from a likely roster spot -- and maybe even a role as the No. 3 cornerback -- to injured reserve.
Now he just faces questions: Can he stay healthy and help the Redskins?
Time will provide the answer. For now, Minnifield measures his victories based on his progress.
Minnifield, a Virginia graduate, underwent microfracture surgery in January 2012 on his right knee. Then Minnifield said a freak injury on the last day of the June minicamp -- he was kicked in the right knee from behind -- led to a torn ACL, though he initially did not think it was that bad. It was. More surgery. More rehabilitation.
But the rehab largely is done, save for things such as ice after workouts or electrotherapy.
"As far as being able to get out there and cover people, I'm not sure where I'm at," he said. "But I'm running full speed. I'm working on my 40 [yard dash] and getting my speed back down. I'm doing cutting drills and backpedaling drills."
Ironically, it's not his right knee that's bothering him. It's his left one. Because this was Minnifield's second ACL surgery on his right knee, Dr. James Andrews took part of his patellar tendon from the left knee and grafted it into his right. It's the same thing Andrews did to reconstruct Robert Griffin's right ACL.
Microfracture surgeries often leave a knee more susceptible to injuries. The fact that he has had two ACL tears already -- his first came as a high school senior -- isn't good either. But Minnifield said his microfracture wasn't as extensive as others who have had it such as the NBA's Greg Oden.
"It's not hindering me in any way," said Minnifield, who will visit Andrews on Monday for a checkup. "My right knee is giving me no problems. It's doing better than my left leg. I feel really good about my situation. Going through it one time made the second time a lot easier. I knew what the possible outcome could be."
But Dr. Richard Lehman of the U.S. Center for Sports Medicine said a combination of microfracture and two torn ACLs is never good. He's not a fan of microfracture surgery, calling it a short-term fix. He has not checked out Minnifield, but as a longtime doctor for multiple professional teams and as someone who is regularly consulted by NFL teams, he does know what the corner is up against.
"A guy who has microfracture and then tears his ACL and then you have to rehab that and it's your second rehab can only expect so much from the knee after that," he said. "It will only recover so well. You have weakened the knee and you can expect there to be further problems and difficulty getting back to 100 percent. ... What happens is you get weakening of the joint and you're at risk for further injury and at risk for early arthritis."
Minnifield plans on participating when the Redskins return for spring workouts in mid-April, at least in the non-football related activities. The on-field work -- covering receivers -- will be determined, and Minnifield said he will be smart about when he starts doing that again.
Meanwhile, he will remember 2012 as a year of surgery and rehab. The toughest part, of course, was not playing. But he stuck around in Washington and attended the player meetings. That doesn't mean it was ever easy, even if he said he benefitted from those sessions. The Redskins, in need of corner help, could use a healthy Minnifield.
"I was devastated," he said. "But the good thing is I know I can play on this level. There's no doubt in my mind that I can."