Travaris Cadet's season-ending injury in 2017 was gruesome to say the least.
New England Patriots defensive end Trey Flowers wrapped up the Buffalo Bills running back in the backfield on his first carry of the day during a Week 16 matchup. What could have been a routine stop took a turn for the worse, as Flowers spun Cadet while his lower body was trapped underneath Flowers.
It was immediately obvious that something horrible occurred. Flowers looked distraught, putting his hands on his helmet while looking at Cadet on the turf. Cadet was stretchered off in an air cast with a dislocated ankle, kicking off a recovery process unlike any he'd dealt with before.
"It was a process that I didn't see coming, but all it did was push me more, humble me more and allow me to do more mental work," Cadet said Tuesday following practice on day five of training camp at St. John Fisher College. "Me and my therapist, we try to take the right approach, a positive approach, because in that situation it is so easy to get negative about it. I'm on the field and watching my leg be on the other side of my body, not knowing what's going to happen."
He didn't walk for the first seven and a half weeks after the injury. Even getting out of bed was difficult at first, as he felt the blood flow to his leg after it was propped up all night. He admitted he was uncertain about the future of his career, not gaining confidence until he was physically able to work again. Teams were wary when the offseason came and he hit the market as a free agent.
"During the process you feel like you're handicapped in a way," Cadet said. "You can't help yourself. You feel like you're dependent on someone else to do everything for you. It's really a wake-up call. It's like, wow, I've never been in this position. Sometimes we take the little things like walking for granted. ... It's like being a baby. You're excited about walking."
Cadet used his newfound time reading books by sports legends like Mike Tyson, Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan, trying to get in the mindset of greats who came back from significant injuries.
"You train your mind and your body follows," Cadet said. "Sometimes I caught myself thinking too far ahead, trying to get back, trying to prove this, prove that. I just had to keep reminding myself to take it one day at a time. My therapist is with me most of the time, Kimberly, pretty much maximizing me mentally."
It seems to have worked. Cadet, who returned to Buffalo on a one-year deal in March, was good to go physically from the start of the Bills' preseason workouts and is a full participant at training camp, battling with recently added Chris Ivory for the right to back up starter LeSean McCoy.
Bills head coach Sean McDermott was familiar with Cadet's game from back when the pair were in the NFC South. He said he always had respect for the player on the field, but has added appreciation now that he's seen how Cadet trains his body and mind.
"He had a great offseason working with the trainers," McDermott said. "To suffer the kind of injury he suffered and then to be pretty much full-go day one of training camp, I'm very impressed by that."
With a return to health and the Bills, Cadet gets a chance to build on an exciting 2017. Traditionally cast as a strict pass option, the Bills gave the 29-year-old back an opportunity to prove himself as a runner after he was released by the Jets in October. Twenty-two of his career-high 23 attempts came in six games with Buffalo. He rushed for 93 yards as a Bill and 96 total, also a career high. Buffalo utilized his skills as a receiver as well, as he caught three passes for 26 yards.
"It was the first time in my career where I came onto the field and I wasn't predictable as a player." Cadet said. "From Day One, they viewed me as a complete player, as a runner, blocker and a receiver. It helped the team out and it helped my game out."
Cadet said he expects to be used similarly in new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll's offense this year. He's ready to finally be able to put the injury behind him and get back to etching out a niche on the roster.
"I've got to thank Chris (Head of Rehabilitation Chris Fischetti) and the staff for helping me through that," Cadet said. "It feels good. I'm still working on getting better on a day-to-day. ... It's kind of like when you look at Mount Everest. You're like, 'Wow, I'm not going to climb Mount Everest. It's so high.' But if you just break it down into segments, put one foot in front of the next and take it one day at a time, next thing you know you're on top of the mountain."