Saturday was an "emotional" return for safety Rodney Harrison, though he was careful to point out that he didn't cry. Two days later, Harrison, who suffered an injury to his left knee last season at Pittsburgh on Sept. 25, predicted he'll be playing in the season opener, less than a year later on Sept. 10.
"I would have to say [I'll be there]. Unless something crazy happens," Harrison said.
Known for his work ethic and ability to deal with pain, he remained focused during his nine month recovery, and was pleased to be back on the field Saturday.
"It's unbelievable," said Harrison. "It's just so many months of hearing people doubt you and just say, 'It can't be done, you're too old, no way in the world can you come back.'
"But just to be able to get back out there and have a chance and people embrace you the way they've done. I mean it was just amazing to me and my teammates supported me. It was just a really amazing feeling."
Harrison wasn't the only one who felt that way, fans too were amazed to watch the veteran return after many predicted he wouldn't recover from the devastating injury – especially considering he's entering his 14th season in the NFL.
Rodney reflected on the recovery, admitting, "At first I didn't do much. I just sat on the couch. Eventually I felt like riding the bike and getting in the hot tub and stuff like that."
He even suggested the recovery process gave other aches and pains time to heal as well, improving his overall health.
"When I was able, I started lifting weights, but I think to have that time off can help some of the other parts of your body that have been aching for so many years," Harrison said.
Asked if he was back at 100 percent, Rodney replied, "Let me tell you, I haven't been 100 percent since I was 23 years old." He went on to explain that he's needed a few days to recover from games for many years.
A deviation from that routine, Harrison said he felt good on Sunday. "Actually, I was just a little tired from getting about six hours of sleep," said the 32-year-old team leader. "I came in here at eight o'clock in the morning. I felt good. I lifted weights. I ran. It was different; because sometimes on Monday, you're hurting so much you can't do anything but get in the hot and cold tubs. But I actually got a normal workout."
He relayed his self-assessment during Saturday's game, saying, "Being back out there, missing 11 months of football, it felt a little different, but maybe after the third or fourth play, I started feeling comfortable, and started almost feeling like normal."
Harrison admitted he's not back at the top of his game just yet.
"It wasn't as natural – I didn't even expect it to be really natural," he said. "It's always going to be a progression. Like I said, I haven't done anything in 11 months. I had to learn to walk again, and jog again, and run again and do so many different things. It wasn't easy. So now, it's just day-to-day learning and re-learning and getting those basic instincts, because that's how I am. I play off a lot of instincts and I can see things a lot of times before it happens. I'm not at that point right now."
Even if Harrison's instincts feel dull to him, his strength has returned.
Asked about changes he's noticed since his surgery, he responded, "I think one of the most glaring things was squats, because for years my knees just hurt so bad I couldn't squat. I've squatted. My legs are stronger than they've ever been. The weight room coaches can attest to that. I did everything they asked me to do – lunges, squats. That was key to my recovery, getting my legs back strong where they need to be."
He felt Saturday's game against the Redskins was a good test for the knee, and even picked out a play that really comforted him.
"It happened in the game. I think it was third-down and one. I had inside fill and I came in, and I think Tully Banta-Cain blew his guy off, and I was actually high-lowed (meaning he was hit high and low in opposing directions by two players) if you go back and watch the film. I actually rolled over on the right knee, which bent the left knee. So once I got over that, I said 'OK, maybe it's all right.' But I actually had that one moment where I felt like, 'This will be a good test,' and it was," Harrison said.
Not only will he be playing in the opener against the Bills, he said he hopes to play against the Giants on Thursday, as well.
"I want that experience," he said. "I want to go against the Giants because they present a lot of challenges. Offensively, they have so many great, talented guys. They're one of the most talented teams in the league. For me it's just a matter of getting more game experience and getting that timing down against a team that's going to come out there and try to make some things happen."