Moments after telling reporters that he was probably a couple of weeks away from running again, defensive end Brandon Graham, smiling, broke into a trot.
In a three-piece navy suit, no less.
Graham, arriving at a charitable gala last week hosted by teammate DeSean Jackson, wanted to show that things weren't so bad, despite the knee injury that soured his rookie season with the Eagles and has left him rehabilitating without team supervision during the NFL lockout.
For Graham, the 13th overall pick in the 2010 draft, this offseason should be a crucial one. Players typically make some of their greatest progress from year one in the NFL to year two.
But Graham faces two challenges. Along with being locked out, like all of his teammates, he is also trying to come back from a late-season injury that can rob athletes of their explosiveness. Whenever he does return to the field, he'll join a defense with a new coordinator and new line coach, Jim Washburn, who has touted Graham's potential in public and private.
Graham spoke with Washburn during the brief window when coaches could talk to players, and got encouragement to push hard.
"He said, 'It's all in your hands this year, basically, on what you do. I know who I want to play, so it's up to you,' " Graham recalled. "I told him, 'It's on.' "
Graham, who never had a serious injury before last year, said he's rehabbing five days a week at Select Physical Therapy in Los Angeles. (He recited the exact address off the top of his head.)
"I'm excited to see how I come back from this, but I know I'm going to come back good," said Graham, his childlike enthusiasm in full effect.
He said his knees "both look regular."
In a way, Graham said, he's happy for the lockout, since it means he's not missing out on minicamps while he rehabilitates.
Graham, who suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on Dec. 12, has been working on strengthening his right leg, the one that was injured. His right hamstring is again as powerful as the left, but his right quadriceps is still too weak, he said last week.
When it gets up to 80 percent of the right side, he can resume running for real, and just not along the bricks outside the Water Works restaurant hosting Jackson's gala.
Even then, he'll have to work his way back into true football shape. With much to do, Graham doesn't expect to be ready for the start of the regular season.
But he's eager to play for new defensive coordinator Juan Castillo, he said. The two spoke during the window when the lockout lifted, but Graham canceled a trip to Philadelphia when the work stoppage quickly went back into place.
"Juan's got a great plan," he said, "and I'm excited."
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