The Bucs may be adding experienced depth at wide receiver soon as Louis Murphy, currently on the reserve/PUP list, began a 21-day window that could lead to his return to the active roster.
The 29-year old pro, who underwent surgery for a torn ACL last November, was back on the practice field Monday in full pads. He had spent the last couple months training on his own, running and cutting in shorts as part of the final stages of his rehab process.
Murphy, a St. Petersburg native and Florida graduate, spoke in open locker Monday, sounding relieved that a long and strenuous recovery was finally coming to an end.
“I feel great, all thanks to God. Thanks to the training staff – Bobby, Stan, John and all those guys that have been working with me for the last year,” Murphy said, crediting the training staff for “pushing me to the limit.”
“I can finally get out there and test it again and it felt great. I couldn’t sleep during the bye week,” he said. “Resting all week, just itching for Monday to come. Didn’t get too much sleep last night. Glad to be back with my teammates, glad to be back in the huddle.”
Louis Murphy – Photo by: Mark Cook/PR
While sidelined, Murphy said it was important to stay in the building and mentor younger receivers, both for their growth and his own ability to stay sharp. There was also a mental hurdle in stepping back on the field, Murphy said, but once he made contact with a defender for the first time in practice it was like “riding a bike.”
That was it for cliché answers, though.
Murphy was asked by PewterReport.com if there was ever a point during his rehab that he thought of just hanging up the cleats. In a particularly serious tone, he admitted that calling it a career did cross his mind.
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about retiring,” Murphy said. “It was really tough. If you’ve ever come off an ACL … it’s really tough. It tested me. But I’m glad to be back.”
Along with the Bucs’ training staff, Murphy also received encouragement from players like Adrian Peterson, Thomas Davis and Jordy Nelson, all of whom have come back from ACL injuries and who Murphy had spoken to personally. As far as his own hopeful return, Murphy said it’s ultimately not his decision for when he’ll be given the go-ahead to suit up for a game, but he feels great and will keep practicing hard – which includes taking extra reps with Jameis Winston.
While the duo’s chemistry isn’t quite at the level of Jordy Nelson and Aaron Rodgers’, Murphy did catch nine passes for 169 yards from Winston over a three-week stretch before his injury last year. His final catch came on a 29-yard reception in Washington, looking every bit like a productive slot receiver.
“[Jameis and I] worked the offseason both his first year and last year,” said Murphy, who has 162 career receptions for 2,322 yards. “I wasn’t really on the roster but I was catching balls with him and I think that chemistry is still there. We just have to keep working at it, keep chopping the wood.”
Update: 5:01 PM
Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said it was great to see Murphy back practicing, applauding the receiver for working his way back from a serious injury. Koetter doesn’t know exactly when Murphy will be cleared – adding that that’s the medical staff’s job – but can just speak on his excitement for Murphy’s progress and enlighten fans and the media on how grueling the recovery can be on a player, both physically and mentally.
“That’s one thing that fans and the media don’t see. When a guy has a significant injury, like [Murphy] had, an ACL, it’s a long, tough road back,” Koetter said after practice Monday. “Those guys spend hours and hours and hours in the training room, working with trainers in the weight room. Then the trainers take them out on the field and they do field drills forever.
“Just because of where our offices are located, I’ve seen ‘Murph’ out there so many times,” Koetter said. “The players feel like they’re letting their teammates down, letting the fans down or their family down [when they’re injured]. They go through ups and downs emotionally, thinking they’re going to get cleared on this date and then not getting cleared. It’s just a long, tough road. You can pretty much ask any player who’s been injured for a prolonged period of time and they feel like they’ve been shipped out to some outer planet and aren’t a part of the team anymore. You try to talk to them and say you can’t let this affect you but it does.
“I think there’s a bit of a misnomer out there that guys like missing practice and like being hurt. These are professional football players and they want to play football.”
Zach is entering his 3rd year covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a writer for PewterReport.com. Since 2014, he's handled a large part of the beat reporting responsibilities at PR, attending all media gatherings and publishing and promoting content daily. Zach is a native of Sarasota, FL, and a graduate of the University of Tampa. He has also covered high school football for the Tampa Tribune and the NFL for Pro Player Insiders.
Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
We need to activate him as Vincent is no longer a deep threat. Time marches on for all.
Keep fighting for it, Louis… We’re pulling for you!
I like Murphy, but I;m not counting on a player who has been out of action for over a year with a serious knee injury is going to come back and make difference.
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