For Eben Britton, January can't come soon enough.
That's when the Jaguars' offensive guard/tackle said he expects to be cleared to work out, so while the team's off-season conditioning program won't likely begin for a couple of months after that, that technicality won't keep Britton from working.
He said he'll be here. And he'll be ready.
"It's getting better every day," Britton said Wednesday afternoon as the Jaguars (3-9) prepared to play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-8) at EverBank Field in downtown January Sunday at 1 p.m.
"I'll be here all off-season. I'll probably be in in January."
Britton, who missed the preseason and several regular season games with a back injury before being placed on injured reserve on November 14, returned to EverBank Field this week after being cleared by doctors to do so.
He spoke to the media Wednesday for the first time since early November.
Britton spoke with his normal good humor, but also spoke of a confusing, frustrating three weeks that led to his season ending early for a second consecutive year.
"It sucked," Britton said. "But it's good being out now. They know what's wrong and it's getting a lot better."
Britton, after missing the preseason and preseason opener with a herniated disk in his back, returned and started three games this season – two at left guard and one at right tackle, where he started his first season and a half.
But on the morning of the Jaguars' game against Pittsburgh October 16, Britton woke to back pain so severe he was a surprise scratch that day. He was inactive the next three games before being placed on injured reserve.
During much of that time, Britton said he was having full back spasms, and couldn't roll over. A week after the Steelers game, the day after a victory over the Ravens, Britton said he could barely walk.
"We said, 'Wow, maybe it's more serious than we thought,''' Britton said.
He said the frustration at the time arose from doctors not knowing what was causing the pain. Doctors believed the problem at first could be inflammation. He underwent a biopsy on Halloween, and eight days later, that revealed an infection.
"They did blood tests and they all came up negative," he said. "I wasn't having any symptoms. No fever. No nausea. They did a spinal tap on the disk – that was good times. They did a culture, and it was negative until the eighth day when they were going to throw it out."
Britton said the pain stemmed from the bacteria and not the herniated disk.
"It was all the infection," he said.
Britton said doctors told him the bacteria came about during the surgery, and also told him infection from such a situation was rare.
"It was unfortunate," Britton said. "My surgeon said they had seen three cases of this. I'm the third in thousands and thousands of back surgery. It's pretty frustrating. I was mad for a long time. When it rains it pours, but I'm doing a lot better."
Britton, who was kept away from the facility during the last month, said he expects to remain on antibiotics fighting the infection for about four more weeks. He has been advised against physical activity that will generate a sweat until then, but after that he said he should be able to begin preparing for next season.
He also said he expects to participate fully in the off-season program. Britton said he was told once he began working out, it would take about three months to return physically to where he had been.
"It's good to be back," said Britton, who missed the last nine games of the 2010 season with a shoulder injury. "Hopefully, I get a get-out-jail-free card after these last two years. Maybe I can be done with injuries."