GREEN BAY – If only it had been as easy to play through injuries like he did in college.
But Josh Myers, the Packers' rookie center in 2021, was dealing with a lot more than the painful turf toe that almost ended his college career at Ohio State a couple of games early.
At first, he was planning to treat his broken finger in early October no different than the toe from the previous fall – tape it up and play on.
But then the finger got infected, so he had to miss a game. Upon his return, he hurt his knee on the first possession at Chicago in Week 6, and that's when his rookie season really took a detour.
The knee injury wound up being both a torn medial collateral ligament and tibial plateau fracture, requiring two surgeries. The MCL repair was followed by the insertion of hardware (a plate and six screws) to stabilize the bone.
Suddenly, the second-round draft pick (No. 62 overall) who had taken over as the Packers' starting center from the beginning of the offseason program wasn't to put any weight on his leg for six weeks, and then the path back to the playing field would resume after that.
"It was tough," Myers said after the season wrapped up. "It was a lot of work."
The 6-foot-5, 310-pound lineman battled through it, of course, over nearly three months before getting back to game action. He played the first half of the regular-season finale at Detroit, emerged fine, and then played the entire playoff game against San Francisco when the Packers' season came to an abrupt conclusion.
In the end, a player in whom the Packers made a major draft investment didn't get the playing time and seasoning anyone hoped for as a rookie. But given the strength and aptitude for the pro game Myers showed in his seven total starts, the outlook is no less bright for a player the Packers envision anchoring the middle of their offensive line for several years to come.
"It was a year with a lot of ups and downs," Myers said. "I learned a lot about myself this season and just how to battle back, but I think I can take those experiences and learn from them and be better in the future."
In many respects, Myers' rookie season on the field progressed through three stages of growth.
First, he learned the playbook through OTAs with young quarterback Jordan Love at the controls while Aaron Rodgers was away from the team.
Then, he got a crash course through training camp in how Rodgers does things, drawing a rebuke on occasion if a delayed shotgun snap threw off the timing of the offense. But as the regular season got rolling, Rodgers spoke of how much he trusted him.
And finally, after the long layoff and with the postseason on the horizon, Myers said Rodgers put him "through the absolute ringer of calls and situations and the operation that we go through."
Myers passed every test and was prepared at every turn, which bodes well for Year 2 provided another run of tough injury luck doesn't await.
"I'm just looking forward to a healthy season," he said. "I just felt like I didn't have any flow to this season. I was in and out and that was frustrating. So I'm just looking forward to a year of getting to go out there and play a full season and learn from it."
Myers is one of three promising young Packers linemen who would appear to have bigger and better things ahead. Rookie fourth-round pick Royce Newman started 16 games at right guard this past season, while 2020 sixth-rounder Jon Runyan started 16 plus the playoff game at left guard.
Myers sees the potential for the group to "stick together" for a while. But none of the three is considered to have fully arrived just yet, least of all Myers with not quite half a season's worth of games under his belt.
"I think I still have a lot to prove," he said, "and I'm excited to get the opportunity to do that next year."