FRISCO, Texas – At this point in the offseason, it's easy to write off an unpadded practice as unremarkable. Anyone will tell you the hard work starts this summer, when NFL training camps open.
That doesn't always do justice to the story, though. For instance, look no further than Allen Hurns' workload on Tuesday morning. At face value, the veteran receiver took part in individual drills and ran routes during the team's pre-practice walkthrough – pretty basic stuff.
But that belies the big picture, as Tuesday marked Hurns' most extensive workload since dislocating his ankle in horrifying fashion back in January during the Cowboys' playoff win against Seattle.
"Not being able to be out there and compete with your teammates, seeing them going out there practicing and things like that, that's one of the toughest things for me," Hurns said. "So today, it meant a lot just being out there with them."
A brief recap, for anyone who has managed to forget. In the first quarter of that 24-22 win against the Seahawks, Hurns caught a slant on a 3rd-and-7 and bullied his way for 14 yards, only to see his ankle twisted all the way around while being tackled. The injury looked so brutal that it went viral on social media, as Hurns was carted off the field and taken to a hospital for evaluation.
"It's crazy. I still get cringey thinking about it," he said. "You know what's surprising, though, is going through that, it wasn't like the worst pain of my life. I was more so freaked out that my ankle was facing the other way."
That seems understandable. But as gruesome as the injury was – and as much as it hurt when doctors popped his ankle back into place, right there on the field – Hurns said he quickly realized the injury wasn't going to hold him down for long.
"Probably in the ambulance," he said. "They just told me how everything was, they put it back in place. I knew it was going to be a tough process, but I knew I'd be fine."
These June practices display the end result of that process. Hurns said he was in a cast for two weeks following surgery, and then he moved into a boot. The severity of the injury kept him from putting weight on his left foot for roughly two months – which meant he spent most of that time stuck in his house, working on puzzles and watching Netflix.
From there, though, it was possible to start checking boxes. In the months since his surgery, Hurns has steadily upped his participation while working his way toward playing shape.
"After those first two months I was able to do much more – lifting, start jogging, and that's where things start getting exciting," he said. "That's the great thing about it – each week you come in and you see 'Ok, I've progressed to this. I'm not where I was.'"
Fast forward to mid-June, and Hurns estimates he's about 90 percent of the way there. He can run and cut, as evidenced by his route running. The biggest remaining obstacle, according to him, is dealing with soreness afterward.
"Will I be able to practice, yeah – but as far as back-to-back days, that would be the only thing right now," he said.
So the Cowboys will keep an eye on him for the remainder of minicamp, and Hurns will continue to progress. As it stands right now, he figures to be ready for the start of training camp.
Given where he was in January, that's no small feat – not to mention a testament to the power of a positive outlook.
"Where I'm at mentally, I feel like it helped me a lot," he said. "That's where I am today – I'm back out there running routes. So it just shows that having a good mindset will help you a lot."