Kory Lichtensteiger weighed the offers and reached a conclusion. He needed to take a chance. So last offseason the left guard rejected the Redskins’ offer of a multi-year deal and accepted a one-year tender.
That’s a tough move for a guy coming off multiple ligament tears in his knee.
“I started thinking maybe it’s risky,” he said. “You go out and hurt your knee and you’re done. No one will re-sign you after a second knee injury. I decided to roll the dice and figure it was worth the risk of proceeding.”
He was rewarded with a five-year deal Saturday night for an undisclosed amount. But it was an offer Lichtensteiger clearly felt was a good one, which is why he bypassed the free agent market to accept. He started all 16 games after returning from a torn ACL and MCL in his right knee.
The contract represents stability. It also provides a little bit more. When he was hurt in 2011 there was a stipulation in his contract that should he be placed on injured reserve his pay would get cut. So he not only needed surgery and faced an uncertain future, Lichtensteiger also cashed smaller checks.
He still made $1.26 million in 2012, so it’s not as if he was hurting for cash after his gamble. But an NFL career is a short one and if he had struggled with his knee this past season it could have altered his future dramatically. But now he has something else.
“I’ve been grinding for a while,” said the former fourth-round pick. “All the while hopeful with the sights set on getting a good deal that was something you could be proud of, something you feel you earned.”
And Lichtensteiger earned it by playing every game in 2012, after not only the initial surgery but an arthroscopic one shortly after training camp started. It’s rare for players to feel 100 percent recovered in their first season back, partly because the bulk of their time has been spent rehabbing and not strengthening the knee. And it takes time to recover.
“I hung in there well,” he said. “I felt it at times. I definitely did not always feel 100 percent. They always say the second year feels better and hopefully by the third year you don’t notice it at all. That’s what I’m hoping.
“I definitely noticed it over a grind of a whole game and season. I could [have felt] more fresh and look better on the field… By the end of the year I was like man I’m ready to give it time off. It feels a lot better now because I’m not putting that stress on it on a daily basis. When we do start back up it will feel that much better. When I look back on the season as a whole I could have performed better across the board and a lot of that has to do with the way my body felt.”
But the way his body felt, yet still playing, is why teammates voted him their Ed Block Courage Award winner. It’s one that no player wants to be in the running for because it means they’re coming back from a serious injury. Once in that situation, however, it represents success: It only goes to players who have played well overcoming an obstacle.
Another obstacle was this: Washington drafted a guard, Josh LeRibeus, in the third round last April, shortly after Lichtensteiger signed his one-year tender.
“When LeRibeus was drafted I was like, ‘Oh man,’ “ he said. “I said they don’t draft someone in the third round without them starting or giving them a significant amount of time. That made me worried and then you have this year with the cap issue. It would be too convenient to say we don’t want to give him a deal and we have LeRibeus waiting in the wings. …[But] the whole time they’ve been loyal to me. I can’t complain.”