How DL Tyquan Lewis overcame his devastating knee injury

WESTFIELD — Tyquan Lewis remembers almost everything.

The initial pain. A feeling that something was wrong with his right knee, a feeling he initially ignored. Lewis sacked Ryan Tannehill on the next play, then went to cover and picked Tannehill for the first interception of his career.

Lewis attempted to retake the pick for a touchdown.

“But I run with the ball and I’m like, ‘I’m running slowly,’ and then I just felt something move away from me,” Lewis said. “Boom, it happened. »

Lewis remembers lying on the lawn at Lucas Oil, looking up at the sky.

Erin Barill, director of sports medicine for the Colts, trotted onto the field and knew immediately.

“It’s your kneecap, mate,” Barill told Lewis.

The patellar tendon, the tendon in the knee that straightens the leg. Lewis sat there, laughing a little with Barill in shock, trying to process the news.

“Mentally it was like, ‘Okay, it’s adversity,'” Lewis said. “I’m just going to continue.”

In that moment, Lewis showed how far he had come.

How he went from a struggling sophomore – challenged by general manager Chris Ballard at the end of a frustrating season – to such a valuable centerpiece for the Colts that Ballard left no doubt about his intentions for Lewis this offseason, even though the defensive end was coming off a rare and difficult injury that often takes a full year to rehabilitate.

Lewis was a free agent.

Ballard has made it clear he wants the former second-round pick back.

“Lewis was a big loss for us,” Ballard said four days after the season ended. “He was really coming.”

The Colts general manager once again congratulated Lewis at the NFL combine, then signed him to a one-year contract worth $2.545 million the day before the official opening of the free agency.

“Chris, he believed in me when I didn’t, at times,” Lewis said.

Ballard, along with team development director Brian Decker, helped Lewis shift his mind two years ago, around the same time the general manager issued his challenge to Lewis to “show what is his level of talent.

Lewis was coming off an ugly and frustrating second campaign that produced just five tackles, one tackle for loss and zero sacks in 225 snaps over nine games. Unable to shake off a sprained ankle, Lewis let the injury drain his confidence, left him feeling like Sisyphus, always pushing a boulder uphill without ever reaching the top.

Ballard handed Lewis a book during the offseason, “The Obstacle is the Way” by Ryan Holiday, and it helped the young defensive lineman completely change his outlook.

The lessons Lewis learned from the offseason were evident in how he reacted to his patellar tendon tear.

“When I thought about my future, I was like…I control all the controllable things, so if it’s in front of me and I can control it, I will,” Lewis said. “Everything else I’ll let God take care of.”

Support from Ballard, the coaching staff, and the rest of the Colts organization helped.

Lewis rode that wave of support and attacked his rehabilitation.

“It’s a tough operation, a tough recovery,” Colts head coach Frank Reich said. “But to his credit, he did well, especially, for me, last week. I just feel like he might be a step ahead of when we brought him back in. We thought, ‘Maybe we’re going very slowly’, but I think he’s fine, and we’re going to keep improving day by day.”

Lewis isn’t quite back to a full workload in practices yet.

But the fact that he’s off the active/physically unable to play roster and playing 11-on-11 in full pads is an impressive sign. A patellar tendon often takes a year to heal; Lewis was back on the pitch in about nine months and he’s feeling great.

Lewis put up a “sack” in training last week.

“I’m still versatile, I’m still running fast,” Lewis said. “I think I hit about 20 miles per hour (the other day).”

A healthy Lewis is essential to the Colts’ defensive line plans, a vision that ideally rotates eight or nine passers every game this season, all capable of making plays. Lewis may not start, but he is a critical depth player who can play defensive end and defensive tackle, giving defensive line coach Nate Ollie and defensive coordinator Gus Bradley the flexibility to play. with alignments.

The 27-year-old has been through a lot in four seasons. Lewis has only played one full season so far, a breakout campaign in 2020 that followed revamping his own response to adversity. A broken foot, sprained ankle and torn patellar tendon, among other injuries, limited Lewis to 25 games over the other three seasons.

But the way Lewis is smiling now, happy to be out there on the field, focused on being a key part of the Colts’ defensive line rotation, sets a shining example for the rest of the roster.

“I couldn’t be prouder of where I am right now,” Lewis said.

Or the way he reacted to that horrible knee injury last October.

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