For Ryan Murray, it was a long summer. Two knee surgeries--one during the season, and one after the season--left his right knee weakened. He worked to get stronger, but in the end the knee just wasn't responding like he and his trainers hoped. It got to a point where he had to simply stop working out. "The knee wasn't really responding to the treatment," Murray said, "and I lost so much muscle with the back-to-back surgeries that the joint was taking the pounding of what I was doing. It was kind of a balancing game: we were trying to build muscle without aggravating it, and we couldn't quite get it right."
It wasn't until August that they found a balance, he said, after a three week shutdown.
Fast forward to now, the second full week of October. When you watch the Blue Jackets practice, however, it's encouraging. Murray is out there, and there doesn't seem to be anything he can't do. He's not wearing a no-contact jersey, and he does all the drills. He says he has no limitations, and that, for the most part, he feels good. But, the decision isn't ultimately up to him as to when he'll return, and there's no desire to rush back too quickly before he's back at 100%.
"It's very easy [to take the long view]," Murray said, "especially with the summer I had, and the trouble I had rehabbing and getting it back to where it is now. It would really be a shame to rush it and have set backs or have problems with it, especially in the middle of the season when the grind starts going. So, I'm going to make sure I'm 100%. I'm just glad that it is where it is now."
It certainly helps that the team is winning in his absence, too. "It's great to see [the team play well]," Murray said. "We're all working together here toward the same goal. Whoever's out there, as long as we're winning, I think everybody's happy. Obviously, you want to play, and you want to be a part of everything, but at the same we're winning and that's always a good thing."
Coach Todd Richards feels the same way, though he did admit that as of now it will be a tough decision he'll have if and when Murray is ready to play and no one else is injured.
"We've been fine [defensively]," Richards said. "All six guys have done a good job, and there's a reason we're 2-0 and have only given up three goals. [When Murray is healthy], we'll have to see how everything's going, how we're unfolding as a team, and how we're playing as a group before we make that decision."
For Murray, it truly is the definition of "day to day" with this injury, as it's a matter of getting confident with his knee while also getting as much practice in as possible, since he missed all of the pre-season games due to the injury. But, as Richards noted, it gets better almost every day, and it won't be too long.
"He's getting closer," Richards said. "I know you guys (the media) are looking for a date, but I can't give that to you, because we're unsure. We'll take it day-by-day and see how he feels. If he continues to progress, great, we'll push him a little bit harder. But he's had a day here or there where he's taken a step back. Overall, he's getting closer. The positive thing for me is that he's able to compete and do a lot of these things in practice. It's going to come down to his timing, our medical staff feeling confident in it, and Ryan feeling confident in it."
As non-committal as that sounds, Richards was quick to add right after: "But, it's all positive steps."
No matter when he's ready to come back, it will certainly make the Jackets' defense that much stronger. Here's hoping it's sooner rather than later.