Ravens safety Terrence Brooks woke up really early this morning, before his alarm clock went off.
Today was the first day Brooks practiced in training camp and another chapter in his long recovery.
Just more than eight months since Brooks tore his ACL and MCL on Dec. 14, Head Coach John Harbaugh said Brooks is "way ahead" in his rehabilitation and gave him the green light on Monday.
"A little surreal," Brooks said afterwards. "I was really ready to go this morning. We've been putting in a lot of work to just get to that point."
The second-year player participated in Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and minicamp earlier this summer, but began training camp on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, along with tight end Dennis Pitta.
Brooks' rookie season tragically ended three games before the playoffs. It was his first major injury in his football career. The Florida State product and third-round pick stayed in Baltimore during the offseason, rehabbing continuously.
"I was pretty numb about it," Brooks said. "They told me the rehab time and I didn't cry, I didn't get upset. I was like, 'Let's do it. We've got to take it on and keep going.'
"I definitely didn't want to sit out this whole year. I put it in my mind that I would come back and be even stronger than I was before. … I haven't had a break since I got here. I expected to be here."
Now Brooks looks at his knee injury as a blessing in disguise. He said it's been a "wake-up call" to get more serious about his profession.
The 5-foot-11, 200-pound Brooks logged 19 tackles and two passes defensed in 11 games during his rookie season. He had a couple notable miscues, including whiffing on an interception in New Orleans and misplaying a deep pass on the Bengals' game-winning drive in Cincinnati.
"I had some stuff last year that I definitely didn't like and that's not in my game plan," he said. "This year I've got a whole totally different mindset."
Just because Brooks is back on the field doesn't mean he's back though. He has to rebuild his mental confidence in his knee and get back into football shape.
Brooks participated in 11-on-11 drills Tuesday, so he wasn't held back. He did say, however, that there were some plays that he could have made but backed off.
"I just don't want to risk anything. I want to have my technique down," Brooks said.
Harbaugh said this week's practices in Philadelphia will be good for Brooks to get him up to speed. Much like the Ravens, the Eagles practice with a high tempo, and there will be added competition going against another team.
Brooks now has a chance to finish camp on the 53-man roster. He would be a welcomed addition, especially considering fellow safety Matt Elam suffered a torn biceps that could sideline him for the entire season. He could also still land on the physically unable to perform list and sit out the first six games.
"It's a little too early to tell right now," Brooks said. "I'm just taking it day by day. It's definitely a process. If it gets to that time, then we'll compete."