PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — JaCorey Shepherd is starting all over again. He spent what supposed to be his rookie year in the NFL watching. He’s never been part of a team and watched football in his life—and that’s because he’s always been one of the best players throughout high school and college, and the best don’t watch.
Shepherd doesn’t look down, either. He doesn’t have to stop and make those mental reassurances all recovering athletes do when returning from an injury, like flexing his right leg out. But Shepherd admits, stepping on Lincoln Financial Field in full pads on Sunday for the first time since tearing the ACL in his right knee last year played on his mind.
On August 10, 2015, Shepherd was carted off the field, wondering about his future in the NFL. On Sunday, he walked off the field on his own feeling confident and trusting what happened behind him should be left behind.
“It was a big psychological thing for me today, but in a positive way,” said Shepherd, the Eagles’ 2015 sixth-round draft pick out of Kansas who looked like he would play a role as a nickel back after Brandon Boykin’s departure before the injury occurred.
“It was real big for me to go back out there, especially with this being where my injury happened last year, but it felt good,” said Shepherd, who is running with the second team right now. “I never had an injury happen like that before.
“I have pretty much have all of my strength back. There’s still explosiveness that I need to get back, but that all comes with muscle memory being back out there getting those reps. I have a little more to go to get to 100-percent. As far as physically, there’s no pain in my knee. It’s just about getting back into football shape.”
Mentally, Shepherd said he trusts the strength in his right knee. He said going back home to Mesquite, Texas to train was a big step in his recovery.
“How my knee felt was one less thing I didn’t have to worry about when I came back up here,” Shepherd said. “I made sure I got all the rehab done. I still have to think on the field, but I’m able to react more and just play football.
“This is like my rookie year. Most of the time I’m thinking about positioning, and where I should be on the field. As far as playing ball, that comes naturally. I’m more focused on if my leverage is right, my technique is right and as I start getting more reps as the weeks go on, I’ll feel even better. My knee is not sore. I don’t feel any pain. I feel great.”
That’s a nice start.