FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- As Sean Weatherspoon continues to prepare for his long-awaited return to game action, the Atlanta Falcons linebacker is just thankful he avoided what could have been a season-ending injury.
Weatherspoon was placed on injured reserve Sept.17 with a designation to return after suffering a Lisfranc injury in Week 2 against St. Louis. The Lisfranc ligament connects the space between the bones of the forefoot and mid-foot. A rupture of this ligament could cause chronic disability if not surgically repaired.
Fortunately for Weatherspoon, he suffered a Lisfranc sprain rather than a rupture. He avoided surgery.
"If your bones move, it allows that ligament to do more damage," Weatherspoon explained. "My bones didn't move, so it was just a sprain. You've got some tears, some little fiber tears. But obviously since my bones didn't move, it allowed me to heal. Now if my bones would have moved, that ligament would have gave out. And I would have been in on the shelf for the duration.
"I've got special bones. I really do."
Weatherspoon reflected on how the Linsfranc sprain occurred. Such a sprain typically takes two to four months to heal.
"I was just standing around the pile, the play was basically over, and a guy just leg-whipped me a little bit," Weatherspoon said. "My front spikes were sitting in the ground. It was just bad luck that I got hit in that position."
The road to recovery has involved bone stimulation, laser treatment, ice tubs, pool therapy and massages, among other things. Weatherspoon first started running again Oct. 25.
"Calf raises were really big because you have to get up on those toes," he said. "The Swimex was pretty big, too. That's where I first got a chance to run, in the Swimex.
"They [the training staff] did a great job of keeping me in it. I was positive about it, so I was ready to attack it. And I think with any injuries, that's how you have to approach it. I don't care if it's my contract year, I'd approach it the same way. I'm not really worried about any of that. I'm just worried about getting myself healthy so I can play."
According to NFL rules, teams are allowed to place one player per season on IR with a designation to return. That player is eligible to return to practice six weeks after the date he was placed on IR and return to the active roster eight weeks after the designation date.
Weatherspoon was allowed to return to practice Oct. 30, although he didn't officially return until Wednesday. He is eligible to be activated from IR next week and play against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 11.
"I feel like I'm going to be able to take a full amount of reps," Weatherspoon said. "Right today, it could be rough. I really feel like with this couple of weeks I'll have practicing, it's going to help me. So I've been doing some extra conditioning during practice. When we do our install period, I go run with the strength staff. And they're just trying to get me back up to pace."
Based on the way Weatherspoon has been vocal in team meetings and active on the sideline, he's already hit full stride.