A year after suffering a serious knee injury during a preseason OTA, Victor Butler looks to get back in the game.
(Photo credit: USA TODAY-Sports)
There are many different types of pain in life. And dealing with pain is just a normal part of life for most people.
But being a former athlete, I can tell you that there is very little pain in this world that can compare to that of being an injured player, First of all, there's obviously the pain of your injury. But above and beyond that, there's another type of pain. The pain of knowing that you want so badly to be out there on that field; the helplessness (in some cases) of not knowing when you'll be able to get back out there, or even if there'll be a spot for you once you can return to the field. And the longer the recovery period, the more that pain just has a way of eating away at the very attitude that you approach the game with. And the worst part? All you can do is just watch.
After tearing his ACL in a preseason OTA in June of last year, Victor Butler got to watch. He got to watch as the Saints brought in an eleventh-hour replacement-Parys Haralson-from San Francisco to fill the spot that he was penciled in to fill. And he got to watch as the New Orleans defense made an almost unbelievable turnaround under Rob Ryan. And, he got to watch this defense lead the Saints to a Wild Card playoff victory over the Eagles. So that must have been a terrible thing for Butler to have to endure then, right?
But if you ask Butler, nothing could be further from the truth.
"Where's the bad in it? We won a playoff game. I didn't see any bad in it," Butler said to the media on Wednesday. "Those guys played tremendous football. They're tremendous football players. When you look at it, they helped the team win football games."
Victor Butler came into the league with the Dallas Cowboys as a fourth round draft choice in the 2009 draft out of Oregon State. After playing defensive end for the Beavers, he was converted to outside linebacker in Dallas, but playing behind Demarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer provided him with few opportunities for consistant playing time. Deemed as being weak against the run, the Cowboys didn't re-sign him when his contract was up at the end of the 2012 season.
Following that 2012 season, Butler would be reunited with former defensive coordinator Rob Ryan in New Orleans. But just two and a half months later, during a routine drill, he collided with RB Mark Ingram, resulting in the torn ACL which caused him to be sidelined through training camp, along with the entire season.
But while it looks like things are so much the same heading into this training camp for Butler, it's not really that simple. First of all, expectations are a little bit different this time around. His approach will be somewhat different as he will have to basically have to come to terms with what his knee will, or will not, allow him to do. That's the expectations for him.
But also he must adjust to the expectations of him. Going into camp last season, having played in Rob Ryan's 3-4 defense in Dallas, he was anticipated to slip right into the starting lineup at outside linebacker and inject some leadership into making it a smooth transition. And as reported earlier, in his absence, the Saints acquired Parys Haralson from the 49'ers. And Haralson played well enough to be back this season. So this year, Butler isn't out to make the defense so much as make the defense better.
To his credit, Victor Butler is at ease with where his career is. But that's not to say that the past fourteen months were easy to endure. The words "tough" and "depressing" were used in reference to his time away from the game. But he is also both appreciative to be back in the huddle, and realistic in his approach to this year's training camp.
"It felt like ten years. It's been a long time coming and I'm glad to just be back out here in pads, feeling healthy again, being able to run around and hit my teammates."
"All you can do is get out there and play football. All that other stuff is up to other people. All I can do is get out there and try to play the best football that I can put on film. Whether that leads to a starting job, a rotational job, or a special teams job, who knows? All I can do is the best that I can do."
This training camp in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia sees the New Orleans Saints with maybe the most quality depth at the linebacker positions that they've had in a long time. And Victor Butler is still a top-notch player. I've already gone on record as picking him as one of my "breakout" players of 2014.
Victor Butler is a class act. And a winner. The battles may change, but winners never do. They just keep on winning.