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Bills' Wood getting back on feet

The opening of the Oscar-winning movie "The Blind Side" struck a nerve with Buffalo Bills guard Eric Wood.

The first scenes show the gruesome broken leg suffered by former Washington quarterback Joe Theismann in an NFL game in 1985.

"It opens up and my girlfriend looks over at me like, 'That was you!' " Wood said Tuesday in the Buffalo Bills Fieldhouse. "That ended his career. But medical times have changed, and he was a little older in his career when that happened."

Wood, of course, suffered a similarly hideous injury in a Bills game at Jacksonville on Nov. 22.

But the 24-year-old Wood is optimistic about a successful recovery from the compound fracture of his lower left leg. He is walking and participating in the Bills' offseason conditioning workouts, which began Monday. He is aiming to be ready to play football by the start of training camp in late July.

"By training camp I think I can be [back]," Wood said. "I am starting to get back into some strength stuff, hopefully running by the end of June and just hit July really hard and be ready for training camp."

Asked if he was 80 percent sure he would be ready to play in the season opener, Wood said: "I would say more than 80. It all depends on what setbacks occur. It's a long way to go and a lot of steps I take, but I am really encouraged the way I have progressed, especially the last month, getting out of the boot, getting on it, doing some strength exercises. I am really encouraged where I am right now and how far I have come in a month. Hopefully I can progress from there. I am shooting for July and I figure if I shoot for July and I have a setback, then August is the worst case."

Wood, the 28th overall pick in last April's draft, is a cornerstone of the Bills' offensive line. At 6-foot-4 and 315 pounds, he is an imposing physical presence, and he played well the first 10 games of the season.

His injury occurred late in the game against the Jaguars, when defensive lineman Montavious Stanley crashed into the side of his leg while trying to tackle Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. The play was so gruesome, CBS showed only one replay during the telecast. But it has been viewed more than 600,000 times on YouTube.com.

"I have seen it a few times," Wood said. "It was what I expected. I knew what happened. When people build something up enough, it is not as bad as you think. It's a good thing there was a sock, because it could have been a lot grosser if there wasn't."

"I watched it and I went back to see if initially there was any ligament damage in the ankle because everything was so inflamed," Wood said. "We went back and watched it a couple of times for that. It's funny when you go to YouTube for your medical analysis, but I guess that is our day and age."

He admits he initially was concerned about his ability to play again.

"I was worried," he said. "Football is a big part of my life and I have put a lot of effort to get to where I am. It was scary for awhile and luckily I had a good surgeon down in Jacksonville and got a lot of good advice."

Wood spent four days in a Jacksonville hospital. Doctors inserted a rod in his leg, anchored with four screws, to repair the tibia, the weight-bearing bone in the shin. Then he spent close to 10 weeks either on crutches or in a wheelchair.

"I was on crutches for about eight to 10 weeks," he said. "The wheelchair was just for [attending] hockey games and moving around the building for whenever my arms got too tired. The wheelchair was just convenient. I was on crutches for a while and the last couple of weeks I could have gotten off of them but the most important thing is coming back for training camp. Being back for OTAs was not as important as training camp so I took my time with it. I really want to come back from this full strength."

Wood said he is able to lift weights normally with his upper body.

"I am full go upper body," he said. "I am pretty much full go lower body as long as the weight is light enough and my feet don't leave the ground. My weight training is not too much different than it was, maybe just lighter weights lower body. I can do cardio machines, anything where my feet are not leaving the ground, elliptical, StairMaster, exercise bike, anything to stay in shape without actually running."

He said he has made good recent progress.

"I am looking forward to coming back," Wood said. "Everyone wants to say I won't be back this year and I may never play again, but that just fuels my fire to want to prove them wrong and want to come back full strength and be better than I was last year."

e-mail: mgaughan@buffnews.com

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