Antwan Odom's face was a relief map after Thursday's practice when his big smile split the sweat.
After his fourth practice on his rebuilt Achilles, a relieved Odom said there continues to be no pain, no soreness, and that it feels pretty much like it did last season when he was leading the NFL with eight sacks just four games into the season.
It was in the sixth game, Oct. 18 against Houston, that his monster season ended when he simply planted to push off and the tendon ruptured. The injury buried him in two months of depression.
"It was a bad injury; for awhile, I had the wrong mindset," Odom said. "I was kind of in the dumps. I had to motivate myself to get back on top. Start believing in myself and it worked. Watching the team play and not being able to be there, it was really hard and tough on me. Every time the game came on I'd get like that. Part of it is football. You love something so much and you're used to doing it and then you're sitting down, it's going to hurt you. I got over that."
He also got over the fear of ripping it again.
"You just go out and play. Whatever happens, happens," Odom said. "(Rehab) is the time to test it. Pushing off it. Because you've got the trainers right there telling you how far to push. I did that and it feels really, really good."
Defensive line coach Jay Hayes has been watching for unwelcome signs. He doesn't see any. He says Odom is close to the guy whose eight sacks logged by Oct. 4 held up for the team lead.
"He looks fine; he looks like himself," Hayes said. "He seems to be moving fine. He hasn't had anything that he's needed to get out of. He's wanted more work. It's been going good."
Last year Odom put on 30 pounds to get to 280 and he says he's almost there at 275 pounds now despite having a sickness. The bulk allowed the coaches to put him inside over guards, which is where he got the majority of his sacks. He likes the quickness and length advantage it gives his 6-6 frame at tackle on passing downs and he's fired up about the rotation joining him at both tackle and end.
"It gives people rest and changes it up for the offense," Odom said. "Quicker guys are coming in and bigger guys are coming in and that's a good thing."