Perhaps one of the most unexpected aspects of Davin Joseph’s recent NFL-USO tour was how exhausting the trip was on a daily basis. Long, unglamorous hours of travel were often followed by scheduled rest times, but those were usually preempted by a more important task: interacting with eager U.S. servicemen and women stationed in the Middle East.
Still, in one way, the eight-day USO trip served as a break for Joseph. The Buccaneers’ two-time Pro Bowl guard had been pursuing his rehabilitation from knee surgery with a focused vigilance, so the week abroad allowed him a break from football before the team’s offseason program begins in April.
Joseph’s surgery was necessitated by one of the Bucs’ most unfortunate moments in 2012, a season-ending ACL tear suffered in the third preseason game. The anticipated pairing of all-star guards Joseph and free agent acquisition Carl Nicks in the middle of Tampa Bay’s lines was one of the team’s top reasons for optimism last fall; later, Nicks too landed on injured reserve with a toe ailment. Getting Joseph and Nicks back into the lineup is a huge anticipated boost for the Bucs in 2013, and Joseph is doing everything he can to make it happen.
The timing of Joseph’s injury, so unfortunate last August, is obviously a plus in 2013, as he deep into his rehab process. Now he’s looking forward to taking the next step and getting back onto the field with his teammates.
“Right now I’m feeling really good, probably the best I’ve felt all offseason,” said Joseph. “Taking a little bit of time off [for NFLPA meetings and the USO Tour] was probably the best thing for me, letting my knee rest and letting my body rest. Now, I’m ready to get back on another cycle of working out. I’m really excited about working out with the guys and getting back into football shape – getting out of the therapy and now getting more back into what I do on the field.”
Joseph remained a team leader at One Buccaneer Place last year even after his injury, and he didn’t spend much time bemoaning his bad luck. Ramping up his already impressive level of community work helped keep his spirits up, and watching his teammates battle on game days pushed him to keep his rehab on pace.
“Watching the guys play last year helped keep me up, especially when they had some big wins and some tough losses,” said Joseph. “You saw those guys fighting each and every Sunday, and it really helped me get through rehab, watching those guys go out there and play so hard. Whatever I could do to get back on the field fast is what I was willing to do. The hard work and rehab and now getting into the offseason is really paying off so far because I feel like I’m very close to being ready.”
Considering the brief doses of playing time that starters get in the preseason, Joseph played the equivalent of about three quarters of a game on the same line as Nicks. He’s looking forward to making up for lost time.
“I’m excited for OTA’s. I’m really excited not just for myself but for our team, with some of the talent that we are bringing here this offseason,” said Joseph. “I really think we have a chance to compete at a high level, so I’m excited to get the team back on the field, get back to working with guys like Carl Nicks, Donald Penn, Demar Dotson, and watch this team grow.”