Tracy Walker planted with his left foot to drive forward and make a tackle, and when his leg gave out he turned and glanced over his left shoulder as he hopped on one leg towards the Detroit Lions sideline.
Walker tore his left Achilles tendon in the first quarter of the Lions’ Week 3 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, but in the split-second after the injury happened, he feared he was the victim of something worse.
“If you look on the play, I look back and I thought somebody shot me in the back, literally,” Walker said Wednesday in his first interview since his Sept. 25 injury. “That’s why I was confused. So it’s one of them things, but it happened.”
Walker underwent surgery to repair his torn Achilles last month and has spent time around the Lions practice facility in recent weeks.
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He wheeled a knee scooter around the locker room Wednesday, stopping to talk to some of his defensive teammates and exchanging phones briefly with receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown.
The fifth-year safety said he was “a little sad” about his diagnosis initially, but he was upbeat and jovial while talking with reporters Wednesday.
“At the end of the day I’m alive, I’m well, I’m blessed,” Walker said. “I have two beautiful baby boys, I have a beautiful wife and I’m in a blessed position. What is there to be down about? Life goes on and I’m going to be back better than ever, so at the end of the day I control what I control so I’m just looking forward to the future and continue to bounce back.”
The third Lions defensive player to tear his Achilles in less than 12 months, Walker said he has taken comfort in seeing one of his teammates play well in his return from the injury.
Lions cornerback Jeff Okudah ruptured his Achilles in a Week 1 loss to the San Francisco 49ers last fall, was back for the start of training camp and has started every game this season. Romeo Okwara, the third Lion to suffer an Achilles tear, has not yet returned from an injury that happened early last October.
Walker said Okudah “has definitely been an open ear for me” to seek advice from.
“But at the end of the day, I’m all positive, I’m my own mind, I’m my own person,” Walker said. “This is a tough situation, but at the end of the day, I’m not going to sit here and let this be the worst of me, be the down of me. Nah. Like I said, I’m sitting here, I’m positive, I have a lot of things to be happy about, I have a lot of things to be grateful about so at the end of the day this is just a minor setback for a major comeback, and that’s how I look at it.”
The Lions allowed a season-high 48 points the week after Walker’s injury in a loss to the Seattle Seahawks, and lost 29-0 to the New England Patriots and rookie quarterback Bailey Zappe before the bye.
Walker, a team captain, said he has tried to continue his leadership role from the sideline, encouraging Okudah and the Lions’ other young defensive backs to hold the secondary down till he can return.
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While the rehab for Achilles tears varies based on the person and severity of the injury, Walker said he is “excited and I’m ecstatic about how my recovery has already been coming along.”
He’s spent some of his extra time away from football with his young son, who was born days before the Vikings game. And he said he’s still getting used to doing simple tasks in different ways, like standing on one leg while taking a shower.
Once he gets out of his cast he’ll progress to strengthening exercises and rehab, and his goal is to be back on the field next spring for at least part of organized team activities.
“That’s the first step,” Walker said. “The first step is trying to get ready for OTAs if I can do a little something in OTAs. But like I said, before OTAs, I got to get out of this boot. So I take it one step at a time, one day at a time because I don’t ever want to get too ahead if that makes sense.”