FOXBORO, Mass. — Tommy Kelly isn’t worried about recovering from offseason knee surgery. The veteran defensive tackle isn’t just saying that either — Kelly knows through experience that his knee will be just fine.
Kelly participated in 11-on-11 drills for the first time this spring on Tuesday, which is a great sign for that knee, which he had surgery on in December. Typically, the more bodies that are on the field at once, the bigger the risk of injury. Kelly previously had just been working on position drills.
Kelly took his increased participation as a positive sign.
“Yeah. I think it is,” Kelly said after minicamp when asked if Tuesday’s practice was a step in the right direction. “But you just go by the plan of the coaches and the trainers. I feel fine. Just getting back to making moves and knocking the rust off. That’s really what it is with me. I’m not really too much worried about my knee.”
Kelly’s been through knee surgery before, so December’s procedure was nothing new for the 11th-year veteran. Kelly tore his ACL midway through the 2007 season with the Oakland Raiders.
“Back then, yeah,” Kelly said if he was worried after his first knee injury. “It was the first time I got hurt. You don’t know how you’re gonna come back off it. This time, pretty much been OK.”
Kelly knows what to expect this time around as he recovers from surgery, and he knows what he has to do to get back to 100 percent.
“Yeah. Having that experience — been through it one time,” Kelly said. “Knowing that you just work your butt off every day. If something ain’t happening, ain’t working like it’s supposed to, just give it time. It’s gonna come back. Just knowing that, you can go through the process much easier if you don’t stress yourself so much.”
Kelly thought he could play through his knee injury last season, but it wasn’t in the cards for him. He originally injured his knee Week 5 against the Cincinnati Bengals on Oct. 6, and he was placed on injured reserve on Nov. 2.
“That was my plan,” Kelly said. “That’s what I was hoping and praying for. It just didn’t work out that way. Me and the training staff, we worked hard. We tried to get my knee to the point where I could get through the game and stuff. Just didn’t work out that way.”
Kelly has a chance to regain his starting role in 2014, and it appears — based on his participation in practice and on his attitude — that he’s on the right track. Kelly was one of the best defenders on the Patriots in 2013 before his injury, and the team missed his pass-rushing prowess after he went down.