In his wildest dreams, or worst nightmares as the case might have it,
“I worked my tail off to get in great shape,” said Burress. “I was focused, I knew the offense. I wanted to be there for the young guys, help those guys out as much as I possibly could. I had worked and it just didn’t work out the way I thought it would.”
On a warm August afternoon last summer during training camp at St. Vincent College, a practice like all of the others, Burress went out for a pass. What happened next, he never expected. Burress tore his rotator cuff, forcing him to have surgery on his 36th birthday.
It wasn’t easy for Burress to deal with, as the reality started to set in.
“It was tough,” said Burress, who re-signed with the Steelers late in 2012 with hopes of finishing his career on a high note with the team that originally drafted him. “To come back and have an impact, play with the team, be with the guys, it didn’t work out for me physically. There was nothing I could do about it but deal with the circumstances. Watching and looking at my guys play on Sunday…Sunday was the most difficult day of the week for me. I was a fan, but it was tough not being there playing with them.”
Burress spent most of the season back at his home in New Jersey, coming in and out of Pittsburgh to see the athletic training staff only on occasion. But he kept a close eye on the team at all times.
“I watched every game,” said Burress. “I was into it with what was going on with the guys. When we would get into the red zone at times and get field goals and not touchdowns, I saw myself going up there and maybe drawing double coverage or catching a touchdown to help us. That was the most difficult part about it, knowing I could be contributing and helping.”
He is hoping to get that opportunity again. Burress said the recovery time from the injury is about seven to eight months, putting him on track to be ready for training camp. He is continuing to make progress on his rehab, going from not being able to do any upper body work in January to now working on his range of motion.
“I am doing pretty good. I still have a ways to go from a rehab standpoint,” said Burress. “I am rehabbing every day and will see how it feels when the offseason program starts. I am doing a few more exercises with using my shoulder to get it stronger. I am working on getting the flexibility back in it from the stiffness and the scar tissue and all of those things.
“Right now I am working on the range of motion, trying to get all of the range of motion back that I can. As the weeks and months go by I am getting stronger. Getting my range of motion back is the most important thing for me with the position I play, being able to catch balls the way that I need to.”
Besides the injury, there is one more obstacle in Burress’ way. He will soon become an unrestricted free agent, and he is hoping to have another shot and not let the injury end things for him.
“I am going to treat it as I am coming back to play,” said Burress. “I am going to keep that mindset until they tell me otherwise. I am going to keep going until I can’t go anymore. The stronger I can get, I can come back and play. I want to come back and play.
“Nobody wants to leave via injury. I am too much of a competitor to go out on that note. I am going to attack it and compete. I am going to train and rehab that way. I am approaching it with a business mind. I want to help the Steelers get to the ultimate goal, and that is winning a championship. That is why we work so hard when nobody is watching.”