Buffalo Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White couldn’t wait to return to the field. When he got there, he knew he had some catching up to do. But some aspects caught him off guard.
“First couple days, I forgot the damn stretches,” White said Wednesday, his first media availability since he tore his ACL. “But it's been fun, man.
The satisfaction of returning comes from all the time took to get there.
"It's been a long road," White said.
White was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice, a day after he was activated to the 53-man roster. The move came about 11 months after White tore his ACL last season in New Orleans.
Coach Sean McDermott said that he would not, at this point, rule White out of Sunday’s game as he had done on Wednesday ahead of the previous two games. General manager Brandon Beane would not get into whether White will be on a "pitch count" when he plays. The steady mantra at One Bills Drive has been that White is day to day.
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Beane, who quipped that he also “tore an ACL 200 years ago,” has been impressed with White’s timeline.
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“I'm not gonna say it's the best, but I've seen nobody better than Tre, the work he's put into it,” Beane said. “He took his family down to Disney World at one point and he was rehabbing down there at some Airbnb or something, so, proud of him, and I'm just glad we're getting closer and closer.”
White did not want to speculate on whether he will play Sunday.
“I'm just taking it day by day,” White said. “Just listen to my body, listen to the medical staff, and just go from there.”
White said different movements, like running side to side, feel “natural,” but he doesn’t shy away from the fact that it’s an ongoing recovery. He also doesn’t downplay the strides he’s already made.
“So, it's been a process of getting to where I'm at now,” White said. “Got a ways to go, but I'm looking forward to it.”
“Of the two guys we got, we looked at 100 other guys. We dug deep into 10 safeties alone. These were the two that made sense,” Beane said.
He’s comforted by the way the Bills defense has held up without him. White joked that no one noticed he’s been gone. Overall, it is true both that the Bills secondary has played well in his absence, but also that the All-Pro’s caliber of play will be a welcome addition.
Still, White has been impressed with how rookie cornerbacks Kaiir Elam and Christian Benford have looked once thrown into the mix.
“Those guys are great,” White said. “They're ahead of the learning curve of where I was when I was a rookie.”
It doesn’t lessen his competitive drive to get back out there. But the last few months have given White some new perspectives. He had to step back, to look at the big picture to get through it.
“It was a testament of me just getting out of a slump, because, you know, the first few months, it was very hard, very depressing time,” White said. “Locked up in my basement, they had to come drag – guys from the facility had to come drag me out of there. So, the first few weeks, it was tough.”
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The uncertainty crept in. White had not had a season-ending injury before, or a surgery like this. He leaned on teammates, like safety Micah Hyde, who now finds himself leaning back on White. White reached out to college teammate Odell Beckham Jr., who’s going through the process again.
He found support in different pockets, but self-reflection also got White through. With football stripped away, he looked at all that he still had left.
“I just noticed, like, I got more to give to people then knocking a pass down and intercepting a ball,” White said. “So, it was the first time in my life I sat down and was like, ‘Tre'Davious White, what else can I offer to people?’ I know I'm bigger than just a football game or just knocking a pass down.
“I started reading, started to get into a different space. Just learning about myself, learning about what's my purpose here on earth other than playing a football game. So, it just put me in a different space.”
White, a father of two with another on the way, also looked to his family. His sons, Tre’Davious Jr. and Tristen, re-enforced for White that his life is more than just his football résumé. White says at ages 5 and 3, their personalities are starting to show. He could take Tre’Davious to school, something he misses out on during the season. Both kids noticed when, slowly, he started to heal.
“My oldest son, once I took the crutches off, he was like, ‘Dad, you don't have crutches anymore? Your leg better?’ ” White said. “So, it was like, ‘Yeah, I'm getting there, man’. So, once I started walking normal, he was like, ‘Hmm, Dad, you want to play hide and seek?’ ”
White worked up from hide and seek, to taking the field, to practicing fully. Soon, White is confident he’ll be back to making plays on Sundays.
“The people that know me that I care about, and that care about me, and just know the amount of work and effort and blood – literally blood, sweat and tears that I put into this rehab, they know,” White said. “So, coming back and performing well won't be a surprise.”
When that day comes, White thinks his teammates may be more excited. He gives his support network so much credit for helping him along the way. That gives him confidence in the next steps, too.
“I'm gonna just believe in my preparation,” White said. “The day’s going to come when I rise again.”