The agony of the feet

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SEATED ON A cart, headed back to the Carolina locker room, a teary-eyed Donte Jackson rehearses what he wants to say to his big toe. Two weeks earlier, in Week 3 of the 2020 season, while leaping to defend a deep ball against the Chargers, the Panthers cornerback suffered one of the most dreaded and debilitating injuries in the NFL: turf toe. Now, being carted off the field against Atlanta in Week 5, one look at Jackson’s face, trapped in an endless loop of pain, aggravation and soul searching, tells you all you need to know about the special kind of misery this nasty injury with the silly name inflicts.

“This thing, it has a mind of its own, it plays tricks on you,” said Jackson, who is now fully recovered and is the second-leading tackler on the Panthers No. 2-ranked defense. “You do so much work to get back and it’s just How’s the toe? How’s the toe? … It has you thinking you’re good to go and one jump, one false move, one push out of a break and you’re back to square one, starting the whole thing back over.”

For 14 days, Jackson rehabbed around the clock. He experimented with different tape jobs, icing methods, custom insoles and cleats, all so he’d be ready to face the Panthers divisional rivals. Everything felt great all week. Warm-ups went perfectly. And after kickoff, feeling like he had survived one of the NFL’s worst rites of passage and was finally back to his 4.3 self, Jackson allowed himself to exhale.

And then, while making a simple diagonal cut on the first defensive snap of the game — arrgghhh — the turf toe was back with a vengeance. Jackson held it together as best he could until he reached the locker room and then he broke down and sobbed. He caught himself cursing, pleading and then apologizing to his big toe.

It’s a mea culpa that, in the NFL at least, is long overdue.

“You never really think about your big toe or how important that thing is,” Jackson said, “until you can’t use it.”




Source : espn

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