Tampa Bay Buccaneers guard Carl Nicks is clear of the foot infection that sidelined him for the second half of the preseason as well as the regular-season opener and he's looking forward to getting back on the field as quickly as possible. Whether or not his return to game action occurs this Sunday when his current team takes on his former team in the Bucs' home opener against New Orleans is not yet clear.
"I don't know," Nicks admitted on Wednesday after taking part in a very limited fashion in practice. "Personally, in my mind, I think I'm always ready for a game.
"Do I have motivation to come back and play the Saints? Sean Payton – haven't seen him in a while. No, I've got nothing but respect for those guys. I love the way they compete and that's how I got my competitive edge. I'd love to play them but we'll see how it goes."
Nicks was actually joking about his extra motivation, but his recent health issue was no laughing matter. His prevailing emotion during the last three weeks has been frustration that he couldn't help his team, but he knew it was important to stick to the plan laid out by the medical staff in treating his infection and the toe injury that preceded it. That will continue in the coming days as Nicks works back into playing shape and eventually targets a specific return date.
"It's frustrating, but at the same time you can't mess around with MRSA," said Nicks. "So I'm going to do exactly what they tell me to do, what the doctors tell me and the coaches tell me. I know they have my best interest at heart, so I'm going to follow all their directions."
The Pro Bowl guard actually points to last year's toe injury as the tougher ordeal, simply because it caused him to miss the last nine games. So far he's been sidelined for just one regular-season game, and even if he misses another he should be back soon and the offensive line envisioned by the Buccaneers for more than a year should finally be intact. That would include one of the best guard pairings in the league with Nicks and another Pro Bowler, Davin Joseph, flanking center Jeremy Zuttah.
"Me and Davin haven't played one game together in the regular season," said Nicks. "That's bad, but that also could be very great. Hopefully when I get back out there we're just 'Bash Brothers."
Nicks was still experiencing issues with his toe when training camp began this summer. During the attempts to treat that injury, he developed a blister on the side of his foot down from his small toe while wearing a walking boot. It was there that his infection started and the recent troubles began.
The silver lining is that Nicks' inactivity while the infection was treated has given that toe time to heal. He now says the original injury is "not even an issue at all." The flip side is that he now needs some work to get back into the type of condition he needs to be in to play a full game.
"At first you really can't do anything, literally," said Nicks, referring to the beginning of his treatment for the infection. "But I've been running recently – jogging, sprinting, doing offensive line work. I'm just trying to get back into football shape.
"I'm going to do everything in my power to play [Sunday]."