Michael McAdoo finally looked like he was getting his chance.
After spending last year on injured reserve and sitting out his final college season for NCAA violations, the Ravens outside linebacker was healthy and looking to make an impact in 2012.
But before he really had a chance to get going, McAdoo fell to the ground during an offseason practice last month clutching his leg. He limped to the training room to receive the grim diagnosis: an Achilles tendon injury. His season was over.
"I finally had a chance to get out there on the field to prove myself," McAdoo said this week in his first interview since the injury. "I thought it was going well, getting the hang of the plays, getting in the system, and getting some extra eyes and extra looks.
"Then for me to go down, it just hurt."
McAdoo will now have to spend a third year in a row watching from the sidelines. The 6-foot-7 pass rusher with loads of potential isn't viewing the injury as career-threatening, despite some people already writing him off.
"I realize that and all I can do is keep fighting," he said. "I can't give up just because I have an injury. I can't feel sorry for myself because nobody else is going to feel sorry for me."
The Ravens aren't counting him out either.
After McAdoo went down with the injury, Head Coach John Harbaugh expressed hope that the former supplemental draft pick from North Carolina would eventually return to the field and turn into a quality player.
"He's not a guy we'll give up on," Harbaugh said. "He's just going to be a project for us. He's going to get another year in the weight room and in the meetings and try to see if he can be a player next year."
McAdoo is taking those words to heart.
"The good thing is that I can always bounce back and come back stronger," he said.
McAdoo had surgery to repair the injury and is currently in a walking boot. He is able to take his time with the recovery process to make sure the tendon fully heals before getting back on the field, and his focus is to maximize the opportunity to get stronger and learn the NFL game.
At 22 years old, McAdoo is still the youngest player on the Ravens roster, and he isn't even thinking about closing the book on his NFL career.
"I can't stop and I can't give up now," he said. "Other people are suffering way tougher things than what I'm suffering, so I just have to keep fighting."