ENGLEWOOD, Colo. —** About seven weeks after suffering a torn ACL, Jeff Heuerman is making big strides every day.
"I wouldn't call them big strides," he said with a laugh on Thursday, "not literally, because they're actually pretty small strides—but I'm making progress."
OK, well, every day Heuerman is making bigger strides.
"Each day's a bigger step, which it kind of sounds corny and it kind of sounds like I'm just saying that, but it really is," Heuerman said.
He said he started walking about a week ago and expects to be able to get back in the weight room with the training staff in a week. Each step, large and small — every bit of physical progress has him thrilled.
Broncos third-round pick TE Jeff Heuerman arrived at Dove Valley for his first day as a Bronco.
"I'm getting my flexion back in my knee, bending it — getting a few degrees each day is exciting," Heuerman said. "That's kind of what I look forward to now is getting those few degrees in my knee and being able to walk and not limp."
Early in May during the Broncos' rookie minicamp, Heuerman was running a route and when he made a cut, his knee gave out. "I didn't know how bad it was, but I knew it wasn't good. I knew I wouldn't just get up and walk away," he said.
Such an injury so early in his career is difficult blow. And for Heuerman—who was a talented hockey prospect in his youth and who said "I'm playing until I can't move ... Until I can't do my job to the best of my ability, that's when we'll call it" after an injury before Ohio State's National Championship game—this is one injury he can't play through with gritted teeth.
But Heuerman remains upbeat because he has the benefit of time on his side, and he knows there's no pressure on him.
"I'm not pressed for time," he said. "I've got a full calendar year until I've got to be back ready to go, which is good. I can get rehabbed right and not have to rush anything."
Patience isn't exactly Heuerman's strong suit, he'll admit, but that's because he knows too much of it can lead to complacency. However, that's not an issue for him right now. There's no timetable in his mind and he can just focus on finding the best pace to rehab.
Take a look back at TE Jeff Heuerman's collegiate career at Ohio State.
Though the injury cut short the physical process of learning the offense, Heuerman was still with his teammates in the few weeks before his surgery. "I was here that whole time in meetings learning everything and if you want to take a positive out of the situation, that's one of the things you can do: sit back, learn the playbook for a year, learn everything and go from there," he said.
So since then he's been doing that and watching film of tight ends, and naturally that includes a lot of tape of Owen Daniels' work in Head Coach Gary Kubiak's offense over the past decade.
He's also been able to get advice from his teammates, some who have gone through the same recovery process that he's beginning. And there's also a veteran in Ryan Clady who's right there with him in rehab.
Last year Chris Harris Jr. and Von Miller went through the same process and said that their simultaneous rehab pushed one another, and Heuerman has been following Clady closely because he knows there's few people better to learn from than a multiple-time All-Pro and Pro Bowler.
"He's in there every day with me and I definitely take notice and pay attention to how he handles it because there's no one better to follow recovering from an ACL than an All-Pro," Heuerman said. "He's going to know how to do it, he's going to know how to go about it like an All-Pro and get himself back to being an All-Pro. I definitely take notes and watch and learn from him. That's been really beneficial."
The path will be long and it won't be easy, but Jeff Heuerman is clearly taking the right steps to a strong return.