Matt Skura says his recovery from knee surgery is still going well, and his goal is to be ready for action by training camp.
The Ravens' starting center tore his ACL, MCL, and PCL, and dislocated his kneecap when he went down Nov. 25 on Monday Night Football against the Los Angeles Rams. But Skura said he began running in late April, more evidence of his progress and how aggressively he has attacked rehab. Skura is determined to be a better player than he was before the injury and is confident he's on the right path.
"Whenever training camp starts, I'd like to be out there if I'm feeling really good," Skura said during a telephone interview. "If I'm not ready at the beginning, then maybe we'd take a week to get me back in the groove. I'm trying not to rush back too quickly, but I don't want to delay myself too long.
"I'm feeling good strength wise, and obviously I'm still building that up. I just have to see how I feel when there's a moving target, or when there's another 300-pound dude trying to get to the quarterback or a running back. We'll see how it feels then. But as of right now, things are feeling good."
Skura has split his time rehabbing between Baltimore and his home in Charlotte, and he doesn't believe his work has been hindered by the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. The countless hours he has committed to rehab are paying off.
"I'd say I'm almost at full speed running," Skura said. "I can't go from a stop all the way to full speed as quickly as I used to yet, but I'm getting close to that, maybe 80 to 90 percent."
Skura was making his 28th consecutive start when the injury occurred in Los Angeles, having his best season anchoring the middle of Baltimore's offensive line. Patrick Mekari did a solid job replacing Skura after he went down, and there will be a competition at center that will include Skura, Mekari and the possibility of Bradley Bozeman moving from left guard to center.
Nothing has come easily for Skura since he joined the team as an undrafted free agent from Duke in 2016. He made the practice squad as a rookie but did not appear in a regular season game. He began the 2017 season on the practice squad, but was promoted to the 53-man roster in September and started 12 games at right guard after Marshal Yanda suffered a season-ending ankle injury.
Skura became the starting center in 2018 after Ryan Jensen signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency. After signing a one-year tender on April 14, Skura is looking forward to the training camp competition and is not conceding the starting job to anyone.
"Competition makes everyone better," Skura said. "I think regardless of my injury, you have to show the coaches and the guys around you that you can play at a high level. Every year I've been a starter, it's always, been, 'Oh Matt, the competition, the competition.' No matter what, you always have to prove yourself, especially for a guy that's undrafted. That's always a little chip I have on my shoulder so I'm always ready for a challenge."
Skura believes his experience of being an underdog has helped him persevere through rehab.
"Going undrafted and fighting your way onto the practice squad or 53-man roster is always tough," Skura said. "You definitely gain some mental toughness from that. College helped. David Cutcliffe my head coach, John Latina, my offensive line coach at Duke, they really just instilled mental toughness, perseverance, resiliency."
However, this is Skura's first experience with a season-ending injury. Right away, he knew it was severe, that he wouldn't be playing football for some time.
"I felt three distinct pops in my knee,'' Skura said. "I knew it wasn't normal. When I tried to stand up, when I couldn't put even a little bit of pressure on my leg, that really confirmed something really bad did happen."
Skura gives credit to his wife, Emma, for helping him take the right approach. He spoke to his wife on the phone in the locker room in Los Angeles after being carted off the field. It was an emotional conversation, but once Skura flew back to Baltimore, he began focusing on rehab. His wife encouraged him to concentrate on his future, not the setback.
"My wife was the biggest reason for me not staying down long," Skura said. "She was like, 'Alright, this happened, we're going to put it behind us. We need to get back on the path of recovery.' She really pushed me in the first month or two.
"She also pushed me to stay around the guys. The first week after the injury, I was still able to walk around because I hadn't had surgery yet. So I was back at the facility that week, still going to meetings, still being around the guys. That was huge for me. It let everyone know I wasn't going to become reclusive. I think it let a lot of people in the building know that I was going to be resilient, still keeping a positive attitude."
The closer Skura gets to returning, the better his attitude gets.
"I know I've made a lot of big strides," Skura said. "I'm going to keep that going."