It’s been 612 days since Trent Murphy last played in a meaningful football game.
So, yeah, you could say the Buffalo Bills’ defensive end can hardly wait until Sunday’s season opener against the Baltimore Ravens.
“It’s always frustrating when you can’t be out there playing with your teammates,” Murphy said.
That frustration was amplified this summer. After missing all of the 2017 season with the Washington Redskins because of a torn ACL, Murphy suffered a groin injury early in training camp that has nagged him ever since.
The good news is, he’s been able to practice fully the last two days, saying Thursday he’s “getting a little more freedom every day to try to be who I am.”
“You always want to outwork everyone and do the most, and sometimes when you're dealing with things like this, that's not the right approach,” Murphy said. “It's been solid, just day by day really. Just taking what they give me. They've put together a great training staff here, so I try to listen and not step out of bounds and do too much. I have to trust the process because I'm always trying to rush and rush and rush and do too much. That's been the biggest coaching point is, ‘do what they tell you, trust the process, and you'll be there when we need you.’ ”
That will be Sunday in Baltimore. Murphy was signed to a three-year contract this offseason to give more of a bunch to the pass rush. The total possible compensation for that deal, $22.5 million, is a good indication of the role the Bills have in mind for him.
“I definitely sense the frustration up until just a few days ago when he was able to get on the field,” defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said. "You can imagine (how he feels) signing a free-agent contract, looking forward to coming to training camp and getting involved after missing almost the entire offseason and then all of a sudden having some of the nagging injuries that he’s had. There was disappointment, but now he’s healthy and looking good in practice.
“I’m very encouraged by his work. He’s been able to put in back-to-back days now for the first time in a long time. Really looking forward to tomorrow, seeing how he feels when he comes back to practice. Up to this point, I’m really encouraged by his work.”
Frazier wasn’t ready to make any predictions about just how many snaps Murphy will take Sunday, but it’s looking more and more like he’ll be able to give the Bills something.
“I mean he’s missed a lot of time, so we’ll see what we can get from him, but we’ll just kind of play it by ear to see how he feels as the game goes on,” Frazier said.
Murphy likewise didn’t want to set a goal for playing time.
“I don't really necessarily take that into consideration,” he said. “I just try to look at what I'm getting better at each day and what my job is. I'm trying to be my 1/11th for the team.”
If Murphy isn’t 100 percent by Sunday, Shaq Lawson figures to take over. Frazier made it clear, however, that the team still wants to get as much as they can out of Murphy.
“Shaq’s done a good job throughout training camp and here leading up to our first regular-season game, but we’ll see how it goes,” Frazier said. “He’s going to play a lot, I’m sure, because of Trent’s situation, but we’ll see what happens with Trent and how he performs and if he can get through this game and move on from there.”
Murphy was first hurt just over a month ago while the Bills were at St. John Fisher College for training camp. As the days turned into weeks, coach Sean McDermott admitted that the team’s level of concern regarding the injury rose.
"I understand where you’re coming from on that,” McDermott said. “It is concerning to a point where he's coming off what he had last year. This is a different situation with his groin. We know how the body works, so we've just got to be smart and get this thing sealed up right now. That's why we're giving this thing a little bit more time."
Murphy admitted Thursday that he wasn’t totally surprised to have an injury setback.
“Honestly, that's kind of the expectation, really, when you don't play football for that long,” he said. “There's going to be certain growing pains you have to deal with. Yeah, it's frustrating, but I kind of like things being hard, so it wasn't a big deal.”