The low point for Terrell Lewis came last July as soon as he got the news: He would likely miss his entire junior season due to a ligament tear in his knee.
Since then it’s been a slow uphill climb.
Lewis has remained out of the public eye for much of the past year during his recovery. For a player who also missed most of 2017, he said it was sometimes tough to fend off the self-pitying, “why me?” questions.
“Some days my body will feel good and I’m like, ‘Man, I could go out there and at least do something,’” Lewis said at the team’s media day on Saturday. “But then other times it’s like risk vs. reward, is this smart, are you really ready or are you just having a good day? So just being patient and taking that time to really learn myself.”
The last time Lewis was on the field for the Crimson Tide, he was sacking Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm in overtime of the national championship game in January 2018.
Last November, in advance of the SEC Championship Game against Georgia, Lewis sent a tweet that stated, “Debating if I should pick up where I left off…” with a picture of his celebration after sacking Fromm. Fans went into a frenzy wondering if the speedy pass rusher could be returning to action just four months after his injury, but he remained on the sideline for the postseason.
He was also very limited during the spring, standing off to the side during most individual drills open to media and not participating in the A-Day game.
“Strength-wise, I wasn’t where I wanted to be as far as being able to hold the point of attack and going against 300-pound linemen,” Lewis said.
Lewis wasn’t the only outside linebacker to miss the season, as junior Christopher Allen also tore a ligament in his knee. Lewis said the two “leaned on each other” during their rehab helped a lot on days when they felt discouraged.
During that time, coaches had to get creative to keep Lewis engaged, crafting new ways for him to continue to improve while his knee regained full strength. He said they focused on hand technique when his knee was weaker and always encouraged him to think through the plays as he watched his teammates.
“A lot of mental work, a lot of learning the game, learning the playbook – not really learning the playbook, but learning why we do things and how things change and shift,” Lewis said. “Basically just really focusing on the mental side of football and being a coach.”
Coach Nick Saban said the team will ease Lewis back to a full workload, but he’s on track to return to his previous heights – if not higher.
“He practiced all day yesterday, made a lot of plays, did a really good job. He’s worked hard all summer,” Saban said. “We keep these Catapult numbers on guys, in terms of what their explosive movements are and how much they can duplicate it, and he’s back to a level higher than he was before he got hurt two years ago.”
When asked about his status if Alabama had a game this week, the immensely talented linebacker didn’t even need to hear the full question before answering.
“I’m 100 percent,” Lewis said. “I’m ready.”