A lot can happen in a year. You can grow a lot of tomatoes. Or make it through an entire “cat of the day” calendar. If you’re Keanu Neal, you can dig in, do the hard work, and bounce back from a season-ending injury.
It’s been nearly a year since Neal tore his ACL during the 2018 season opener against the Eagles. Lucky for us, Neal appears to be at or near 100 percent. In fact, both starting safeties are fully rehabbed and looking forward to a productive 2019.
Last week Neal made himself available for a few questions from the media. Our own Jeanna Thomas was on hand. In response to a question from the AJC’s D. Orlando Ledbetter, Neal talked about how he’s feeling headed into the season and the role Ricardo Allen played in his recovery.
“It’s been great. It’s been a blessing,” Neal said. “I’m excited to be back, to get back with the guys and everything. It’s been a lot of fun.”
According to Neal, Allen was an invaluable part of his recovery. Put simply, knowing he was not on an island, that there was someone else navigating a similar process, made Neal’s recovery that much easier.
“[H]aving somebody there, who’s going through the same thing you’re going through, competing and challenging each other,” Neal explained. “It’s definitely big when you’re going through something like that.”
Games that matter can’t come soon enough for Neal. He spent an entire year rehabbing, and I’d imagine he had some pretty dark moments over those 365 days. So to say he’s anxious to get back would be a huge understatement. “You know, I’m excited to get it going. Making it through the preseason healthy; I’m grateful. I got my feet wet, so now it’s on to the [regular season].”
No matter how confident and rejuvenated he appears now, Neal has come a long way since last September. He deserves a lot of credit. But hearing that Allen made his road back even a little bit easier just warms the heart, doesn’t it?