There were some eyebrows raised on Saturday when Kory Lichtensteiger was on the sidelines wearing a baseball cap instead of a helmet and shoulder pads. After all, he had told reporters just the day before that he had fully recovered from the torn ACL and MCL he sustained to his right knee last Oct. 16. He said that he wasn’t even getting any treatment on it.
Any concerns that the starting left guard had suffered a setback, however, were rallayed after practice when Mike Shanahan said that the team had just given him the day off.
Although it’s not likely that the folks at the Pro Bowl will ever have to worry have having to stitch his 14-letter last name across the back of one of those jerseys, he is a rock on the offensive line. The team was 3-1 with Lichtensteiger in the lineup. After he went out in the first quarter of the fifth game against the Eagles. Counting that game they went 2-10 the rest of the way.
There isn’t direct cause and effect there, or course, since plenty of other things went wrong. But Lichtensteiger clearly was missed. And he hated not being able to help even though he was in something of a fog at first.
“Yeah, it’s tough to see your team lose and it’s even tougher when you’re powerless to help them out,” he said. “I was on so much pain medication at first, I was so loopy I didn’t know what the heck was going on but I’m just glad last year is over with.”
He knew the knee injury was bad as soon as it happened. Eagles lineman Darryl Tapp was blocking him after Rex Grossman had thrown an interception and he got moved the wrong way after planting his right foot.
“I knew it was screwed up pretty bad when it happened,” he said. “Every time I took a step there was just no stability there so, yeah, I knew it was pretty bad.”
It was by far the most serious injury of Lichtensteiger’s football career. “I’ve had some shoulder surgeries and stuff but nothing I’ve ever missed games for,” he said. “Most of that stuff I’ve had done in the offseason after the season. So I’ve never had anything that’s taken me out of playing.”
But this one did and during the spring and early summer he was still a little unsure about how the knee would feel. As it turns out, though, his fears were unfounded.
“I thought I was going to have to keep it warm all the time,” he said. “Like if I was standing around for five minutes I though it was going to, you know, riding a bike to keep it warm. But maybe it was the heat [on Thursday] but there wasn’t a time when it cooled down and got stiff, it felt good the whole time.”
Recovering from many injuries, especially knee ligament tears, can be as daunting a challenge mentally as it is physically. “It’s still pretty fresh in my mind, that feeling of when it went,” Lichtensteiger said. Such thoughts have held back many athletes from performing even after the injury has medically healed.
But he thinks he has gotten past the mental block. “I trust it at this point and it feels good,” he said.
We are a long way from being sure that Lichtensteiger is out of the woods. But if his knee keeps feeling good through the season the Redskins’ line will be better off for it.