But since he’s pretty talkative, and was going into a subject he really had kept quiet on (knee injuries) for quite some time, I thought it was important to ask how much better he felt in 2009 than 2008, when he was coming back from the surgery. That, of course, ties into how Tom Brady might feel different now, as opposed to this time last year.
“You’re a year removed from it, and that makes a big difference,” Rivers said. “It’s almost hard for me to think about what it’d be like with a guy like Tom, with all the Super Bowls he’s been to and the success that he’s had, getting that extra year. He had some different challenges than I did (through the injury, surgery and rehab). He dealt with a little more than I did.
“But I would imagine one of the biggest things is not having to worry about the infection and the rehab, and just start playing football again non-stop.”
There’s one under-the-radar aspect Rivers alluded to here: Time management.
As much as you talk about feeling confident in the “new knee”, and the leg being right and all, that might be as big a deal as any part of this. Last year, while I writing Sporting News, I did a piece on Brady’s rehab that detailed how he got himself ready to return to the field. He was sometimes working out three times a day.
And as hard as a guy like Brady is driving at something like that, and as many hours as he might be spending, it would’ve been impossible to devote the kind of time to football that he did in offseason he was healthy and didn’t have to worry about a major rehabilitation.
That, for Rivers, is what made the 2008 and ’09 offseasons so different.
“I was able to balance (the rehab and football work) that first year,” Rivers said. “And I had my best year. But that second year, removing the rehab, you can do more, and you’re a year better.”
Rivers had almost identical completion percentages (65.3 in ’08; 65.2 in ’09) and TD-INT ratios (34-11 in ’08; 28-9 in ’09) in the two years, took 25 sacks in each of those seasons, and threw for a few more yards in 2009 than 2008 (4,009 in ’08; 4,254 in ’09). But in 2009, he really did carry the offense, as the once potent running game slid to 31st in the league, and guided the Chargers to a 13-3 record.
In the end, he’d never want to go through the whole ordeal again. But he does actually think he’s better now for having gone through it.
“(It’s) probably mental toughness, and in the pure dedication it takes in the process,” Rivers said. “There’s no quick answer to rehabbing off a knee injury like that. You just keep fighting. It affects everything. Sleeping at night, it hurt. So you really do appreciate having it healthy.
“Last year, to get through the season with nothing major happening was awesome. But man, you really do sympathize with guys going though it. Ultimately, doing that probably made me better as a player and a man.”