After the 2020 NFL offseason was swiped by a Grinch known as COVID-19, players are finally putting pads on this week and getting back to some semblance of normalcy as training camps ramp up.
For some players, pulling on pads meant more than to others. Particularly players coming off an injury, like Seattle Seahawks tight end Will Dissly, were giddy to get back to the field.
"It was like Christmas morning," Dissly said Tuesday, via the team's official website. "I was excited to go hit somebody again."
Dissly was on a star-track last season in Seattle, growing into a go-to target for Russell Wilson, becoming the darling of the fantasy football community, and making big catch after big catch. The first five games of the 2019 season, he compiled 262 yards and three TDs, including 81 yards on four catches (20.25 yards per catch) in a big win over the division rival Rams in Week 5.
Then an injury struck, again.
In Week 6, his Achilles tendon ruptured. The injury was reminiscent of the blown patellar tendon he suffered in 2018, which ended his promising rookie campaign after just four games.
"Unfortunately, Will is really good at rehabbing," coach Pete Carroll said wryly. "He's had two big challenges back-to-back... We're in pads and he's in there in the first couple of plays coming off the football. He's a remarkable person in the character that drives the guy to overcome those kinds of obstacles. Sometimes it breaks guys down, they can't find that motivation, but Will has been able to do that. He's a wonderful player, he can do everything -- he blocks, catches the football, runs well after the catch, he's really smart. He's a great team guy. He's a terrific part of our team so it's great to have him back. I know he's thrilled that he's back out here, but he's got something to prove. He wants to stay out here, so he's going to do everything to get that done."
The fourth-round pick out of Washington knows he had a promising year cut short. Now he's on a mission to prove he can get back to that level once again, and this time stay on the field.
"I had a ton of confidence from rehab, and so there was never this fear of I don't know if I'm ready to put pads on," he said. "So, it was more of just the excitement. I'm putting pads on again. I'm playing the sport. I worked my tail off. There was a bit of celebration in my mind that, you know, when you go through rehab, you have to celebrate the little moments, and that was definitely one of them. But there wasn't this anxiety or fear that I had to get over. It's exciting to get back to doing the thing that I love."
The Seahawks added veteran tight end Greg Olsen -- who has dealt with his own injury history -- to help buoy the position alongside Dissly. If the duo stays healthy, Seattle's pass-catching corps will be a dangerous proposition for defenses.