Orchard Park, NY -- It certainly hasn't been an easy beginning to the career of Buffalo Bills starting center Eric Wood. Showing poise and progress through a solid opening to his rookie season, he was then riddled by a gruesome broken leg injury.
Following that were almost two more years of playing at a high level, then the center had the carpet ripped from underneath him with yet another big injury.
This time it was a torn ACL, an injury that takes most athletes nearly three-quarters of a calendar year to bounce back from. It just so happened to make it the second time in four seasons that Wood has been on the mend heading in to the start of a season.
It's frustrating for him, considering his nonexistent injury history leading up to his NFL career.
"I'm just looking to catch a break, too... not literally" Wood deadpanned. "It's been unfortunate. I've never gotten hurt in my life and then I had two major injuries. I had zero nagging problems when I got hurt Week 10 or 11 last year. I felt completely fine. It's not one of those deals where my body is shutting down. I feel great. Each year I've come back in the best shape of my life and had unfortunate plays."
Now the road to recovery is what Wood has to focus on, and the center says he's getting close. You can hear the excitement in his voice when talking about how near he is to finally rejoining the team on the field.
"I'm in the final stages," Wood updated WGR on Monday. "It's kind of funny because a few months ago I thought I was gonna be back you know, the next day, the next day. It's just one of those deals where you just gotta be patient and you never want to take a big step back. So that's kind of where we're at right now. "
Being so close but so far away isn't sitting well with Wood as a competitor, but he understands the plans the Bills' training staff has for him as he tries to bounce back from yet another huge injury.
"I'm getting impatient, I want to be out there with the guys... I feel like I could be," he admitted. "But it's just one of those deals where we don't want to have a major setback to this point, so we're just trying to be patient. Stay on the normal time table which was... our goal all along was to get back for training camp and just because I'm feeling good now doesn't mean we should rush plans or change things up now."
Perhaps the biggest hurdle to clear is the mental game that ensues whenever an athlete, so used to depending on his body for his well-being, is not able to do so for an extended period of time.
Wood admitted that a normal off-season doesn't exist when you're dealing with a big injury.
"It's not fun," the center remarked. "You forget how much fun it is playing football when every off-season you're just rehabbing the whole time. You don't live your normal life. You can't go play golf every weekend like you'd like to in the off-season, you can't travel as much, you can't do other things that other guys are doing and it does take its toll."
"[But] this is my job. I care about the Bills who have a lot of faith in me as a player. You've just got to put the right things on your priority list and get back and try to do it again."
Wood got married in April in front of 200 of his closest friends and family members, and that helped alleviate a lot of the time that might have otherwise been spent inside his own mind thinking about the rehab process.
Even still, the former first round pick admits it's a relief to be back with his teammates in Buffalo.
"It stinks that I constantly have to rehab," said Wood candidly. "But this is what I want to be doing. When I'm up here with the guys, it's not as bad. When I'm plugging away in Louisville day in and day out just rehabbing, it can get a little monotonous. But up here, we all have the same goal. We all want to win a championship. This is just something I've got to do and take care of to try and help the team out to get there."
In his place, the Bills have used both reserve offensive lineman Colin Brown and usual starting right guard Kraig Urbik as the first-team center during OTAs. Rookie Mark Asper has also been taking reps at center with the second team.
Wood and the Bills have three more sessions of OTAs on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday of this week. Then the team will take part in a mandatory mini-camp Tuesday June 19 through Thursday June 21 before they break until the start of training camp on July 26.