This offseason has not been a typical one for safety Kavon Frazier, at least in terms of his fellow 2016 rookies.
Big strides can often be made between the first and second years of a player's career when he's able to fully immerse himself in training, not only improving his strength and endurance but also simply becoming even more comfortable with the playbook. Fresh off his debut campaign, Frazier and the Cowboys were looking forward to him having a full offseason in the team's workout program.
But unfortunately, that program has been somewhat limited for Frazier. While he's been able to stay involved and do some of the required regimen, he's also had to overcome offseason foot surgery, his health taking a priority above all else for the time being.
"It's been very different," Frazier said of his last few months. "Especially from the rehab standpoint. I had to be here most of the time rehabbing and just working to get this foot back to 100 percent."
The stress fracture in his foot was actually discovered during the 2016 Scouting Combine with the thought then being that he had perhaps played with the injury for at least a year, maybe even two, while at Central Michigan. Doctors immediately sidelined him and kept him from fully participating in the combine, limiting him to only the bench press.
He was later cleared, though, and participated at his university's Pro Day where he ran a 4.58 40-yard dash with a 40.5-inch vertical leap and 128-inch broad jump. Many, including the Cowboys, gave him a fourth-round grade, but perhaps because of the injury concern, he dropped in the 2016 draft, Dallas gladly grabbing him with the second of its four sixth-round picks.
Frazier, however, wasn't about to let his foot issue stall the start of his NFL career.
"I decided not to have surgery and to play through it," he said. "I played through it all last year."
While overshadowed by one of the best freshman classes in Cowboys history, Frazier had what could be considered a promising rookie effort despite the foot ailment. He played in the final nine games of the regular season, plus the divisional round matchup against Green Bay, appearing primarily on special teams and recording four special teams tackles, based on coaches' film, with two assisted tackles on defense.
"I was playing more nervous last year because I didn't want to make a mistake," Frazier said. "I was playing a little passive. This year, I'm focusing on just playing faster and playing more aggressive, like I know I can play."
Which his exactly what the Cowboys need him to do. The team has question marks at the safety position going into the 2017 season, thanks to the departure of starting strong safety Barry Church and his backup, J.J. Wilcox.
Most figured at least one, if not both of those players would be back, but in the end the Cowboys felt their money could be better used elsewhere. The team's brass also believed the position could instead be filled through the draft and by those already on the roster, like Frazier and Jeff Heath.
"You know, they played really well for us last year," said Frazier of Church and Wilcox. "It was definitely disappointing seeing them leave. I built a very strong friendship with both of them. And I still communicate with them. It was definitely disappointing seeing them leave, but that's what happens. It's the name of the game. The next person steps up."
Of course, Frazier hopes to be that next person. He brings with him a reputation as a big hitter, in that same mold as Church and Wilcox, but he'll have to fight off the likes of Heath, as well as newcomers such Robert Blanton and rookie Xavier Woods, to fill the first-string role next to free safety Byron Jones.
"I'm definitely excited for the opportunity," Frazier said. "I just want to do all I can to help the team out and to help us get over that hump."
Frazier just has to get healthy first, a process that is continuing during these OTAs. Slowly but surely he's being brought back into the fold, rotating his days between individual workouts and jumping into the team drills.
"Right now I'm not back 100 percent yet," he said. "My foot is 100 percent, but I'm not fully doing stuff every day, so I'm limited. It's definitely a precaution. They know my foot is healed 100 percent, but the main thing is being healthy and 100 percent for training camp."
Meaning that even though this hasn't been a typical offseason, he's where he needs to be, on track for what really matters, which is being in the lineup and making an impact in the Cowboys' secondary come Sept. 10 against the Giants.
And if nothing else, at least he's finally getting back on the field, no longer forced to rehab on his own.
"Just to be out there with the guys, bonding with them, it feels great," Frazier said. "I felt like I was letting them down a little bit, just seeing them out there working, grinding and me not being able to be out there. But it's good to be out there now."
Taking it step by step.