Mike Walker is back.
"It felt pretty good. I didn't think about it at all," Walker said of the knee that caused him to spend his rookie season on the injured reserve list. "I just went out and played."
In Tuesday's OTA practice, the 2007 third-round draft choice made two eye-catching receptions, both of the diving variety. His ability to catch the ball, however, has never been at issue. For Walker, it's always been about the knee, the one that required reconstruction between his junior and senior seasons at Central Florida.
Walker was one of the stars of last spring and the first week of training camp. He looked like the next Jimmy Smith. Then, midway through training camp, the grind took its toll. Walker's knee noticeably weakened and it became obvious he needed a season of rest. He also required additional surgery on the knee.
"It was just a scope," Walker said of the surgical procedure conducted on his knee last October. "Clean everything out of there and let the cartilage heal."
Walker spent the first 10 OTA practices with the rehab group. He was set to make Friday's mini-camp his first official practice but got the medical clearance to move his return up one practice.
Is he a hundred percent?
"I don't know what a hundred percent is. I haven't been a hundred percent since my first mini-camp. It felt great then. I think it was the wear and tear. You're practicing every day," he said of the decline he experienced last summer.
Coach Jack Del Rio said the team will take it slow with Walker's return to action. He'll practice only once in each of the two mini-camp days.
"My goal before training camp is to get that endurance," Walker said.
"He's a good football player. We just need to get him on the field," Del Rio said.
Scouting Director Gene Smith kept a close eye on
Walker during Tuesday's practice and Smith was satisfied with what he saw.
"He made a nice first-day impression. He looked both fast and quick. That's a good sign for where he's at. The one thing about Mike is he has a nice catching radius. Everything looks easy," Smith said. "I think Mike can be as good as he decides to be, if he sustains his health."