Jason Verrett waited for this day for what seemed like an eternity.
Freshly activated off the PUP list, the star cornerback was finally able to take the field since undergoing knee surgery last fall.
All eyes were on number 22, who participated in individual drills in his first practice of the year.
“Jason looked good in individuals,” Head Coach Anthony Lynn said. “We’ll let him work his way in slowly. He’s moving out there pretty well…We’ll just see how his knee handles things and work him in slowly. We’ll just let him progress from there. We don’t want to rush him.”
While it was only individual period of an early training camp practice, it was a small but meaningful step for the young Pro Bowler.
After all, it’s been an emotional journey back to the field since he was lost for the year in early October.
The news he’d require ACL surgery took Verrett completely by surprise. He’d played the first four games of the season, and felt he was dealing with normal soreness. Unfortunately, tests proved otherwise and he was soon lost for the season.
Ten months later, he was finally able to return to the game he loves on Friday.
“It felt too good to be out there,” Verrett said, flashing his trademark grin. “I’ve been waiting too long for this moment, dealing with a lot of ups and downs with the process. I can’t wait to deliver and move passed all the pain I’d been going through. I learned a lot about myself sitting out and having to watch. I became stronger mentally. This game means a lot to me. It’s something I love and truly live for. I gained so much appreciation for it, and I’m thankful to be back now.”
Even better, the 26-year old said his knee felt healthy. He could have pushed it more if he wanted, but agreed it best to take a cautious approach.
“Really, I felt good. It was solid! I’m easing my way back in and looking for no setbacks. I’ll modify (as necessary) and make sure I’m doing the right things. I’ll keep moving forward. Going out like I did was tough. Not being able to be there for my team and my brothers was hard, but now I’m back and looking forward to competing with them.”
Though he couldn’t be with them on the field, Verrett remained around the secondary nonstop from the moment he was injured. He went to every meeting and attended each practice. He shared tips with younger players while asking questions of the coaches. Verrett even took Trevor Williams under his wing, helping the undrafted free agent adjust to the NFL.
Still, the cornerback would close his eyes and wait for the day he could be out on the field competing alongside them.
“I’m just so happy to be back with them. They’d been doing so well, and now I can be out there with them. Like Trevor, he’s doing so well. All the confidence he’s bringing, he’s a guy who reminds me of myself as far as his mental approach. As a rookie, you are just trying to perfect everything. In your second year, you understand things better as far as formations and what to do. So to finally being out there with him, I’m excited because there was a bunch of (stuff) I wanted to show him, too!”
As you could imagine, Verrett relished every moment on Friday. Still, what he’ll carry most from his first day back was the reaction from the fans.
“It was love, man! They are what keep me going. Those fans, hearing them cheer my name and all that, I couldn’t wait to get back out there. To hear that again, there was so much love.”