A few months ago Shaun Suisham never imaged he would be a spectator when the Steelers opened the 2015 season against the New England Patriots. His vision was what it's been for the past 10 years; that he would be on the field with his teammates, ding his part like he always does.
But that all changed when the Steelers played the Minnesota Vikings in the NFL's Hall of Fame Game, and he suffered a season-ending ACL injury.
"This is the first time I have had a significant injury since I was a freshman in college," said Suisham. "It's very…"
He paused, the look on his face saying it all. He didn't have to share the feeling, the emotion that came after "It's very." His eyes, the tone of his voice, his heart said it all.
The best photos of Kicker Shaun Suisham.
"Change is difficult," Suisham continued as he pulled his thoughts together. "My life is drastically different than it was a little over three weeks ago. It's very difficult to process. To have a specific goal every week and having an angle to put ourselves in contention to win a championship, and to work at that every week and have a specific routine is something I have grown accustomed to and really enjoy. There is an awful lot that goes in to preparing for a season. Being physically fit is something I take pride in and work very hard at. I was prepared. I was ready for the season. I felt great. For it to be over so quick…my only option is to redirect my focus towards rehabbing and getting ready for next season. I am going through the process of trying to establish a new routine.
"In saying that, it's very difficult to see the guys go out to practice and watch games."
Suisham had no idea how difficult it would be to watch his teammates play until he showed up at Heinz Field to join his teammates for the preseason game against the Packers. He sat on the bench during warm ups, watching the specialists at work.
And it ate away at him. So much so, he couldn't even stick around for kickoff.
"I went there because I missed being around the guys," said Suisham. "I showed up there and I was actually miserable and ended up leaving before the game started. It was much more difficult for me than I had thought it would be.
"I take a deal of pride in being a kicker for the Steelers. Not being able to do it is very difficult for me. I care a lot about the guys on the team, everyone in the organization. I wish I was going to be a part of it this year. There is a lot of excitement about this season. I have no other choice other than to be a fan and cheer my buddies on."
His eyes looked around for a minute and you could see it, the faraway look of disappointment of not be in meetings, and how much it really did hurt, and I don't mean physical pain.
"I am 33 years old. This is my 11th year in the NFL," said Suisham. "I have a very stable family life. My wife and two girls are great. I have perspective that I didn't have when I was younger so I am thankful for that.
"I am very disappointed and it's hard not being a part of this. It's special being a part of the Steelers. My focus now needs to turn now from rehab to getting ready for next year."
Next year. Next year. It's something that Suisham honestly has no idea what next year will hold, no idea how he is going to respond to the rehab from an injury that isn't common with kickers.
"I don't know the answer to that," said Suisham. "I don't personally know kickers who had the injury I had to their plant leg. I am not suggesting I can't come back from it. I don't know a lot of guys who have been through this. I will be going at it on my own. I have no idea how my knee will respond.
"I will put the work in. If things don't work out it won't be because I haven't put in the work or effort trying to come back."
Effort is something Suisham never skimps on, which in part might have led to the injury. Some wished that Suisham would have stayed away from trying to make the tackle that led to the injury, especially in a preseason game. But that would mean not giving his full effort, it would mean not doing his job, and not doing what his teammates expect from him.
"That is the only way I know how to play football," said Suisham. "A lot of the times I think it's natural for people to try and paint people into something that is understandable to them and makes sense, that a kicker shouldn't be involved in contact.
"That is not who I am. I realize I am a kicker in the NFL and I don't have the skill set of a safety. But that doesn't mean when I am on the field I won't always give 100 percent when it involves attempting to make a play on a returner. I am going to do that. I am upset I got hurt, but I would regret playing football differently."
Through the disappointment, through being upset over the injury, though, there has been a slight silver lining, something he so deserves.
"I was able to take my daughter to the first day of school," said Suisham. "The next day was the first day she took the bus to school and I was able to follow her there. Those were some pretty special moments I never would have had.
"I am not suggesting I am pleased I am hurt, but for me I am trying to enjoy some of those parts of life I would have missed out on."