CHICAGO -- The extended, torturous offseason still had months to go, but Stefon Diggs just wanted a taste of action.
The Maryland Terrapins wide receiver wasn’t fully cleared to participate in the spring game as he continued his rehabilitation from the broken leg that sent him prematurely to the sideline last season, but he was at least going to be allowed to go through warm-ups, which nearly qualified as a feast for a guy starving for football.
Even if the Terps had just stopped at giving Diggs a pair of cleats to lace up again, though, that might have been enough to hold him over until the fall based on his emotional reaction on the road to recovery.
“Seeing as how I love football so much, it almost brought me to tears just to be able to put my cleats back on,” Diggs said at Big Ten media day. “I was so happy.
“Towards the end of spring I did kind of get my feet wet a little bit. I didn’t play in the game or anything, but I did warm up with the team on game day. It was nice just to be back out there to be honest with you. I’m just looking forward to the season. It’s been a long time coming.”
Too long for both the football-crazed Diggs and the Terrapins, who missed his game-breaking ability on the perimeter. Diggs had a productive start before his fluky injury against Wake Forest.
Diggs already had caught 34 passes for 587 yards with three touchdowns before Maryland had to put him on the shelf, and even if it just had to replace his output it would have been a challenge for the offense. But Diggs wasn’t the only notable player hurt for the Terps in their final season before moving to the Big Ten. A lengthy disabled list that included as many as 13 players ruled out by late November made it difficult not only to compete in the ACC, but also to gauge how they might do in a more grueling conference this fall.
Certainly having Diggs back will go a long way toward helping Maryland make a mark in its new league, and he pronounced himself “110 percent right now” heading into training camp. But the trick will be making sure both he and the rest of the Terps can stay that way, avoiding some of the bad luck that has cursed them over the past couple of seasons.
“We had our rough spate of injuries, but we always look for the positive,” Diggs said. If we stay healthy, it’s all about potential. We’ve got a lot of potential, so let’s keep it that way. We’re looking forward to playing football, and that’s the bottom line. As far as staying healthy, we’ll do the best we can like any other team.
“For me, I feel like I’m faster than I was before. They say when you break a leg you get a little taller. Well, I got a little faster -- so I got both of those.”
That means Diggs might have to lean over a little further to tie his cleats. And as fast as he already was before the injury, he might need to lace those shoes up a little tighter as well.