JOHN CLAYTON

Seahawks’ Jimmy Graham trying to regain old form after difficult rehab

Sep 28, 2016, 10:52 AM
Jimmy Graham caught six passes for 100 yards Sunday and scored his first touchdown since his knee i...
Jimmy Graham caught six passes for 100 yards Sunday and scored his first touchdown since his knee injury. (AP)
(AP)
LISTEN: Seahawks' Jimmy Graham on his comeback from knee surgery

Last week, there seemed to be an unfair impatience among fans with Seahawks tight end Jimmy Graham.

Many wanted him to be putting up Pro Bowl numbers in Seattle’s offense. Some wondered if he could be moved in a trade to get a left tackle.

I felt then that was unfair, and having interviewed Graham Monday on 710 ESPN Seattle, I know why. Critics don’t fully understand how incredible his comeback from patellar-tendon surgery was, and how he is still trying to get back to being the Jimmy Graham of old.

Leaping in the end zone for a potential touchdown catch against Pittsburgh on Nov. 29 of last year, Graham came down on his right knee and blew out the patellar tendon. First, Graham said he felt the pain and he knew the injury was bad. Then he looked at his leg and didn’t see a knee cap.

He feared the worst.

“They initially said that I don’t do anything half way, and I certainly didn’t do that nine months ago,” he said, referring to the severity of his rupture. “They said between nine months and 12 months is when you should be back.”

Graham wasn’t able to resume jogging until June. The season started Sept. 11. That’s nine months and 13 days after the injury. More than likely, he was two to three months ahead of schedule.

In Sunday’s 37-18 win over the 49ers, Graham caught six passes for 100 yards and scored a touchdown that was capped by a huge spike of the football. The spike had extra meaning. Graham had conquered his recovery.

“It’s definitely been a long road for me,” Graham said. “I tell people that there have been some dark days. I’ve worked every day for the last nine and a half months to hopefully capture a moment like that. I don’t think anybody really expected me to be back so early. Definitely hard work paid off.”

Graham admitted he’s not 100 percent yet, which is understandable. That’s why I never expected a 100-yard game this early. To be on the field for 17 plays in the opener against Miami and 55 plays against the Rams in Week 2 was the right pace. He caught four passes between those two games.

To advance to the 100-yard level, Graham had to win both the physical and the mental battle. The physical battle was hard enough.

Graham talked about the plateaus of his rehab. First, he had to relearn how to walk. He had to rebuild dormant muscles such as the quad. He had to relearn how to drive a car. Each step was tough and the next steps were tougher.

Every morning he would wake up at 5:30 for a long day of work at the Seahawks headquarters.

“You are trying to wake up muscles that had disappeared,’’ Graham said.

Plus, he had to endure the pain.

“It’s really (dependent) on your body and how hard you’re willing to work and how much pain you’re willing to push through,” he said. “You are just trying to get the scar tissue stripped out of it and get through the pain of that.’’

He appreciated the constant support of his teammates and coaches. Pete Carroll checked on him every day he was in the office. Richard Sherman made it a point to see him during his rehab to encourage him or jokingly berate him.

In the final month, Graham had to conquer the mental worries of risking re-injury by going on the field and running routes among defenders trying to take him out. Sunday’s 100-yard game signified that he’s moved another step ahead.

“My whole career, I’ve been kind of a reckless player as far as throwing my body around,’’ Graham said. “Mentally, that’s just how I play. I‘m not going to be out there halfway tippy-toeing. I’m not going to stick my toe in the water and see if it’s cold. I’m going to play and I’m not even going to think about it. I feel like I’m a warrior.’’

Graham is a beast and the beast is back.

Want more John Clayton? Listen on-demand to his weekday and Saturday shows as well as his “Cold Hard Facts” and “Clayton’s Morning Drive” segments on 710 ESPN Seattle. Also, check out his all-new “Schooled” podcast and look for his columns twice a week on 710Sports.com.

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