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No time for frustration

Posted Mar 22, 2012

DE John Chick working to return from season-ending knee injury

It’s not fair to say this is routine for John Chick.

He’s recovering from a patellar tendon injury, and because that’s a knee injury and because he uses his knee quite extensively in his role as a defensive end for the Jaguars, Chick won’t say his situation is without concerns or issues.

But Chick said he also knows this: This overcoming adversity stuff? Defying the odds?

For him, it ain’t exactly new.

“I have a goal,” Chick said this week. “I want to keep playing. This is another thing where it’s there, but there are ways around it.”

The ways around it, Chick said, are rehabilitation, and hard work.

Chick said because that’s the path he’s confident the outcome will be positive – mainly because that’s the path that got him his NFL opportunity in the first place.

Chick, a four-year starter for Utah State, originally signed as a rookie free agent with Houston in 2006. Following his release early that August, he signed with the Saskatchewan RoughRiders of the Canadian Football League.

He played three seasons for Saskatchewan, and earned the CFL’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player Award in 2009. He spent the 2010 season with the Colts, then signed with the Jaguars shortly before the 2011 season opener.

With the Colts, Chick played sparingly behind Pro Bowl ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, but when he arrived in Jacksonville, he said he had a conversation with Jaguars defensive line coach Joe Cullen.

“We need a rusher,” Chick said Cullen told him. “Just work your butt off.”

Chick said he did that, and while working with Cullen he said he improved significantly.

“He’ll be yelling at you, but at the same time, it’s because you know he wants the best out of each of his guys,” Chick said. “It matters to me when guys care. In the same moment he’s yelling at you and trying to get the best out of you, you know that he cares for you and wants the best for you and the team. It’s easy to believe in someone and something when that’s the approach.”

Given an opportunity last season, Chick showed signs of flourishing, registering two and a half sacks in 11 games as a reserve. He had his first career sack on Andy Dalton against the Bengals October 9, and had another the following week against Pittsburgh.

“To me, for a long time it’s been a matter of confidence – believing in yourself and knowing you can do it,” he said. “When you actually do what you know you can do and see it on film, it’s a matter of continuing to perfect things. I know what worked for me this year and what things I need to work on. Right now, I have nothing but time to focus on those things and strengthening the areas that need strengthening.”

Chick finished the season with 14 quarterback pressures to rank fourth on the team, but during the Jaguars’ Monday Night loss to San Diego December 5, he sustained a torn patellar tendon that landed him on injured reserve for the rest of the season.

There was, Chick said, an expected amount of frustration. But he said that frustration didn’t mean self-pity or a thought of quitting.

“That’s not the way I am,” Chick said. “I know the career I’ve chosen. Just because someone didn’t get injured and I did – that’s in the cards for me right now. I don’t think that way, really. There’s a reason behind it all.

“Maybe it’s for me to have more time to focus on what I need, I don’t know.”

Chick said at times during his rehabilitation he has experienced doubt, and he said at times early in the rehabilitation he would finish a week exhausted. Each Monday, however, he said he felt better and stronger.

“With that kind of progress,” he said, “I really believe I’ll be back.”

Now, Chick said he has been told he is ahead of schedule. He said the knee is gaining strength, and although he has no specific time frame in terms of being able to return for organized team activities or mini-camps in April or May, he believes he will be ready to play next season.

While rehabilitating, he said, he focuses on the positive, and that’s that he proved to himself last season that he belongs in the NFL and that with work, he can be a productive pass rusher.

That remains the goal, he said – even during a time that’s far from routine.

“I feel there’s a great opportunity,” he said. “I don’t think this (coming) season is earned. What happened last season is in the past. I’ve put my resume out there, but again, I have a lot to overcome. I have to prove I can come out and overcome this injury and improve from last year. There will be issues if I’m not improved. I just have to keep working my hardest to push through it, but it’s not like I haven’t overcome worse.”

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