Kory Lichtensteiger immediately knew something terrible had happened. The intense pain and the disgusting 45-degree angle at which his right knee bent gave it away.
As he sat on the sideline that Sunday last October, disappointed at the prospect of lost season, he believed he would return to play left guard for the Washington Redskins.
Fourteen months later, Lichtensteiger has started all 14 games this season for the first-place Redskins.
His toughness and work ethic earned his teammates’ vote this week as the team’s 2012 Ed Block Courage award winner. The honor is given annually to a player on each team who displays extraordinary courage in the face of adversity.
“To get that vote of confidence from them, to see that they understand how many hardships I’ve had to go through rehabbing the knee, I think it’s very cool,” Lichtensteiger said. “I’m very honored by it.”
Lichtensteiger, a five-year veteran, tore the ACL, MCL and meniscus while being blocked by Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Darryl Tapp following an interception. He had reconstructive surgery, and then the extensive rehabilitation began.
He was limited throughout minicamp and OTAs last spring and summer. He was cleared to participate in training camp, but he suffered a setback just days in. A bad step and a hyperextension resulted in more pain.
Lichtensteiger sensed it would subside after a few days of rest, but doctors told him the chances of him surviving the season without arthroscopic surgery were minimal
On July 30 he had it scoped to remove particles. He missed all of the Redskins’ preseason games, but he returned for the regular season.
“He’s very competitive,” coach Mike Shanahan said. “He does everything we ask him to do both in the running game and in the passing game. He’s a perfectionist, even though perfection doesn’t always occur in the National Football League, especially in the offensive line. He’s given all his effort that he can possibly do to make sure that he plays at a very high level.”
Lichtensteiger still fights through pain and stiffness to practice and play. His athleticism is an important part of the Redskins’ the zone blocking scheme and their screen passing game.
“After games, it feels pretty rough,” he said. “It’s pretty nice to have a coach like Mike, who takes care of his players.
“Usually by game day it’s feeling OK. There’s always a few magic remedies that the medical staff can come up with to get you feeling right on game days.”
Lichtensteiger’s versatility also might become an important asset. He moved to center last Sunday against Cleveland after Will Montgomery left the game with an injured MCL in his left knee.
“I kind of had to channel my inner center from two or three years ago,” Lichtensteiger said. “I think it helps me out because that’s always where I kind of felt the most comfortable as an offensive lineman.
“It’s a tighter box you’re playing in. You’ve got guys that are lining up right in front of you, as opposed to all the space that you have at guard. Mentally, it’s a lot more challenging, but at times, for a guy like me, it’s better suited.”