C Jeff Christy jumped at the chance to get back to practice Monday afternoon
On a day when Major League Baseball took the field again and National Football League teams around the country came back to practice, Tampa Bay Buccaneers center Jeff Christy made a return of his own.
Christy didn't just join his teammates back at work Monday, he got right back in the middle of the action.
The Bucs' four-time Pro Bowl center had not participated fully in a practice or game since August 18, when he suffered a left knee sprain in the team's preseason game at Cleveland. On Monday, he went whistle to whistle during the team's two-hour session and walked off at the end without a problem.
The routine of work was a relief to everyone at One Buccaneer Place, but it was a particularly good day for Christy.
"I'm excited about it," he said. "This is the first time I've gone through a full practice (since the injury). I went through one-on-ones, I did everything.
"It feels great. It's hard when you're not out there practicing, though I was here every day. You don't feel like you're part of it. As much as you sit in meetings, as much as you do this or that, you're just not out there and you didn't go through it. You can't really get away from that until you get back on the field and start doing it again."
Christy lined up with the first team offensive line, restoring Todd Washington to the extremely valuable guard-center substitute role he generally fills. Washington drew rave reviews from the coaching staff for his work as the starting center in the three games missed by Christy, but is also the team's top backup at all three interior spots.
Head Coach Tony Dungy was pleased that Washington kept the line functioning well during Christy's absence.
"I don't think there's a lot of difference (between the two players)," said Dungy. "Jeff brings a little more athleticism and does some different things. We pull him a little bit more. But other than that, we're just happy to have that depth back. Now we know an injury or a guy who's got to take a blow during a game is not going to be catastrophic."
Christy had returned to a limited role in practice last Wednesday and was going to try full participation on Thursday before the cancellation of NFL games made his return less urgent. The gritty veteran was determined to play against the Eagles on Sunday, but the change in schedule actually worked in his favor, from at least that small viewpoint.
"I would have played," said Christy. "I don't know if I would have been 100 percent, but I definitely would have played. By canceling the Philly game, that took an extra two practices off me, plus the game."
The extra rest brought Christy back almost to that 100 percent level, though he admitted some maneuvers still bother his knee a bit.
"Jeff is really pretty much set to go," said Dungy. "We're still monitoring him, but he really doesn't feel any effects right now and seems to be full speed ahead."
The Bucs are looking ahead to their next game, still two weeks away. Fittingly, after six weeks off, Christy will return to action against his former team, the Minnesota Vikings. By that point, he should be in peak condition. Not that any lingering health issues would keep him out of that contest.
"I definitely wouldn't want to dodge that game," said Christy. "I think I would have played in that game with one leg."