Doug Legursky is hoping the worst is behind him. He hopes to never experience a season like he did in 2011, when injures kept him sidelined on multiple occasions and prevented him from doing what he loves most, playing football.
Legursky opened the season as the Steelers starting right guard, but a shoulder injury early on sidelined him week four against the Houston Texans.
He returned to the lineup the following week against Tennessee, starting two consecutive games at left guard for Chris Kemoeatu, while Ramon Foster moved into the starting right guard spot.
But just as he was getting back on track, the injury bug struck again. He dislocated his toe against Jacksonville, forcing him to leave the game and in turn miss the next three.
You could see the injuries were wearing on him, but he was quiet and rarely complained. They bothered him more than he let on publicly, and just when he thought he overcame the injuries for the year, he injured his shoulder on Dec. 24 against St. Louis while starting for injured center Maurkice Pouncey.
"This was the hardest part of my career to date, my whole career, not just in the NFL," said Legursky. "I have never experienced a season like this. I am glad it's behind me now and hopefully those injuries are behind me too. Some guys get season ending injuries and I feel like those are easier to swallow than the ones I had. Of course you are bummed the season is over, but you can start focusing on rehab and getting better right away. But the ones I had, the dislocations I had, they are really tough. You are walking that fine line between pushing it to get ready and be out there the next week or two weeks from now and not pushing it so hard where you can permanently hurt yourself.
"Those injuries are tough for me. No injury is fun, but they are part of the game. As long as you can get through them and get back out there on the field in due time you are a professional."
Legursky is still working on getting through the injuries. He had surgery on the shoulder in mid-January and is currently in the rehab process.
"I am coming along really well," said Legursky. "I am ahead of schedule, but it's still a slow process especially somebody like me. I just want to get back to working out, get back to being 100 percent. That is the painstaking part about rehab. You have to let your body heal and take time to do it. It's a tough process, but I am ahead of schedule now.
"Right now it's strengthening the muscle around the shoulder, preparing it, giving my surgery time to heal properly and not overdo it to where I could jeopardize the surgery and I could easily re-injure it. Things like that. Also I am just staying in shape. I am doing a lot of cardio, working out parts of my body I don't need to use the shoulder for, the lower body, my other shoulder. I want to keep that as strong as possible so when I do get fully back I am not that far behind."
Players are not able to return to team workouts until mid-April and Legursky's goal is to be as close as possible to returning to football at that point.
"I want to be doing everything except for live football," he said. "I want to be in the weight room, I want to be doing bench press stuff, push up stuff, things like that. I want to keep my body ready to play but not take live reps.
"With an injury like this you don't want to take live reps before it's had time to heal 100 percent so you don't risk an injury where it will transition into having a problem during the season. It's much better to hold off during that time to where you can get more mental reps and not take a shot to the shoulder and risk missing out on camp and not just OTAs."
He is definitely antsy to get going, though. If he had it his way, he wouldn't miss a minute of time on the field for the rest of his playing career. But he knows he has to be smart about things.
"It's definitely tough," said Legursky. "It's probably the hardest part of athletics for me, when you have an injury trying to push it just enough to stay in shape, stay healthy and stay strong, but not push it too much to where you hurt yourself further or where it will delay your recovery. It's a fine balance. It takes some finesse. You have to think a lot about what you are doing. It's part of the game.
"But hopefully I will be back 100 percent by the time the season starts. I know I will be."