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Transcript: Defensive Tackle Sheldon Rankins Post-Practice Media Availability - Monday, August 26, 2019

New Orleans Saints defensive tackle speaks to the media after practice at the Ochsner Sports Performance Center

New Orleans Saints Defensive Tackle Sheldon Rankins
Post-Practice Media Availability
Monday, August 26, 2019

How amazed are you? You suffered the Achilles injury in January and here you are seven months later, you're out there running with the ones and practicing.
"It's by the grace of God, man. Obviously, I'll put it all in his hands and I've had a great support system throughout this entire thing. Family loved ones, this training staff who put me in the right position to be able to progress daily and be able to get back out here and give myself a shot to be able to help this team."

Going through the process, how difficult is it to kind of be off on your own going through a severe injury?
"Sadly for me, this is not my first time going through a little something serious. It is not foreign to me, but it's different. You watch your teammates go out here and battle through training camp, throughout OTAs, and in a sense you are isolated a bit. But, if you dwell on that too much, you can lose focus on what is important and for me that was getting better every day and putting myself in a position to get back out here as soon as possible."

It's been a long process, but how do you feel right now movement wise?
"I feel good. I think I'm pleased with where I'm at. Obviously, we'll keep taking it a day at a time, see how things respond, and see how things continue to progress. But, I'm happy with where I am at throughout this entire recovery process. Like I said, I have been able to progress daily and been able to, like I said, put myself in position to be able to get back out here as soon as possible. I think that is a big thing for me, getting back out here, being able to run around, hit some blocks, feel some contact, and play football again."

What was it like today just putting on a uniform again?
"It's surreal, I'm not even going to lie. It's very surreal putting on cleats again. To come out here and go through warm up lines, walkthroughs, things like that, seeing your teammates embrace you. I have not been out here in a while, so it is kind of surreal. But, once the ball is put down it's football and there's a task to be accomplished (and I have to) go out there and do that to the best of my abilities."

Do you have a timetable in your head?
"No. Right now (I am) just taking it a day at a time and when I'm ready, I'll be ready. When that time comes, I'll be out there helping this team the best I can."

Do you see this as it is a clear sign of being ready before week Six of the regular season or just a likelihood?
"It's something I would obviously like and I'll leave it at that. But, for me right now it's about being able to come out here every day and take steps now as a football player, not as a guy who's trying to rehab and try to get back out here. Now I'm out here so it's about being able to improve upon my football abilities and be able to kind of hit my stride again and be able to do things I was able to do last year with this team."

When did you find out you would be able to be out here today?
"Today when everybody else found out. I was sitting in there and they told me, hey, practice. Okay, cool. Time to practice."

What was the timetable you were working under before though? Did you think you were going to miss those first six weeks?
"There was really no timetable. For us it was about just following protocol, being able to let the Achilles heal the right way first, and then once that comes and then being able to slowly but surely be able to build up strength, flexibility, power, speed, those things. Once we are able to hit certain milestones, then it was about being able to get back out here and play football. No timetable really. Really, it was just about how my body responded to things and my body has responded well so we will just keep progressing as normal."

How long have you been able to do like full speed conditioning to get your weight and conditioning where you want it?
"I do not really know. It has been a few weeks at least. Probably a little bit longer than that. Just being able to kind of really attack everything the way I really wanted to. Like I said, I'm happy with where I'm at. We'll continue to progress from here. Like I said, this is the first day, shorter practice, a few reps here and there, some individual periods, and then just start to slowly but surely ramp it up and then kind of see how it responds and go from there."

Did you really show up today not knowing that you can practice?
"I showed up today thinking I was going to treatment as normal. Like I said, I got a beautiful surprise to be able to come out here and play football with my teammates."

Who told you?
"The trainers, the head trainers. They kind of pulled me aside and let me know what was going on and how we would progress, and now that's the timetable we're following."

Your welcome back moment, how many up downs did you do over there?
"40. That's kind of our thing here to our defense. That's the buy in. Everybody usually does it together during OTAs, but I wasn't granted that luxury. 40 up downs to start the day is not the best way to start practice, but got it out the way. I'd much rather do it indoors with no pads on than be outside in the 100 degree weather with 90% humidity and full pads. I'm glad I got it out the way."

It took you a little time. You missed the beginning of stretch.
"Listen, anybody who's done that will tell you you're going to need about five to seven minutes of recovery time. There's no way around it. You do it, you deal with it, and then you get back into practice."

If you were surprised and you would called to practice, what was your teammate's reaction when they saw 98 walk out?
"They were excited. They were happy. The first thing guys started doing is the shimmy. They see me, they want to shimmy, and I have to kindly give the lesson on how to do it. Listen, I am happy to be back out here, (and) my teammates are excited for me to be back out here. It's all by the grace of God I'm able to be back out here and be able to do something I love again."

What's the next step for you? Is it just like kind of getting back into a full kind of contact and just seeing how that reacts?
"For me, it is going to be about kind of getting full pads back on, being able to hit people repeatedly, play after play and see how it responses. That's my job description. There is no way around it. I play one of those positions where contact is a given on every play. It's one of those things where I just kind of build back up that stamina and being able to do it over and over. And then once you're able to do that obviously perfecting my craft along the way then we'll be ready to get back out there. When that is, I don't know, but when I'm ready, you guys will see me out there for sure."

Quickness is such a big part of your game. It is just a matter of getting that element of your game back?
"Yes. Listen, I think throughout this entire rehab process we've harped on that. We are focusing on being able to allow me to do the things I do when I get back out here and not just trying to get something out here, but when I get back out here and (to) be able to do what I do. I think throughout the entire process we've been able to harp on that. Being able to focus on those things that I need to do to be able to play the game the way I know how to play it and play the game to where I know I can be successful at it and I'm happy with my progress thus far."

Was it difficult for you to not kind of rush to those milestones that you were talking about? We know the way you work.
"For sure, yes. Listen, I think kind of like you said, I take pride in the way I approach everything that comes to with football. Recovery, treatment for my body, the way I train in the offseason, throughout the season, my attention to detail on film. For me, everything is about being the best I can be at it. For me, going through this process, there's really no rushing an Achilles. If anybody's ever been through it they'll tell you, you go as the Achilles goes. There's really no like, hey, we're just going to do this today. No, you take that step and it does not feel right, then you can't do it. For me, it's just about not over exerting myself, being able to respond to what my body's telling me I can handle and attack each day that way and I think I've done a good job. For me, it's just going to be about continuing to do that. Now that I'm out here, don't put myself in positions where I could cause harm to myself, but be able to respond to what my body's telling me I can handle that day, do that, and then proceed to the next day."

What's the emotional swings been like for you from the low of leaving a playoff game on a cart to getting back here now?
"Man, listen, that's never the way you want to leave a playoff game. You never want a playoff game period, but for me to go out the way I did last year with the season I thought I was putting together, it definitely didn't end the way I wanted it to. I think I've kept that in the back of my mind throughout this entire recovery process. So being able to, like I said, attack each day and put myself in position to be back out here for the last week of training camp with my guys and being able to get some quality work in before the season gets started, it's beautiful thing. I'm proud of myself, but I've still got a long way to go."

Who among other athletes did you talked to about recovery?
"Obviously, Alex Okafor. Obviously, with him playing here for a couple of years, me and him got pretty close. Obviously, going through a similar type injury, being able to pick his brain about how he felt about things, when he knew he was ready, things like that. Ben Watson as well. Me and Ben have talked extensively this offseason about things. Those two guys really as far as from other athletes that I've leaned on for just help and the mental fortitude to be able to battle through some things. Those are the two guys I probably lean on the most, I actually talked to Alex probably a couple of days ago. Those are two guys I for sure lean on the most. Obviously the training staff. We have been in communication every day throughout anything I've felt, anything I've thought, it's been an open conversation, an open discussion, and it's led to this morning."

What's the best advice you've gotten about what to prepare for now that you've reached this point that you're going to realize something's not all the way back?
"The best advice I got was from Alex (Okafor) honestly and he said, 'when you're ready, cut it loose. Don't think, don't hesitate, don't baby it. When you feel like you get that thought in your head, like you have to go do this, just cut it loose and go play and the rest will take care itself.'"

Ben Watson said the worst part for him about the injury was that there was absolutely nothing he could do to make it better for a while. Did you guys talk about that at all?
"Yes, because the thing that the Achilles is the way it has to heal. Your Achilles essentially is like a rubber band. It needs to heal in a certain position to maintain that powerful stretch. For so long, you're essentially just laying there with your foot there. There is nothing you can really do. And even then once it's healed to a certain point orthopedically, you have to slowly but surely be able to kind of gain that flexibility back, gain that strength back. You can't force anything on it. So it's really one of those things that you have to let time heal in a sense and kind of let the biological clock take over because if you rush it then you're pushing yourself back and now you're causing yourself more harm than good."

How concerned were you that if you did not make it back in time, that you might not be able to win the team's media cooperation award for the third straight year (laughter)?
"I'm never not confident in my abilities. No matter whether I played one game, two games, eight games, all games. That's my award."

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