GREEN BAY – Luke Musgrave is thrilled to be back on the practice field with his teammates, even if he's just running around.
The Packers rookie tight end isn't really doing any football drills yet, and he can't be certain he can return to the field before the end of the season. But the fact it's a possibility, after lacerating his kidney in the win over the Chargers a month ago, is reason for excitement and optimism.
"It's kind of hard to tell," Musgrave said regarding his potential timeline. "I'm just going to follow their track, talk to the doctors, and it's probably going to be more down the road is when we figure it out. But yeah, it'll be good."
The injury occurred during the third quarter of the Week 11 home game, when Musgrave caught a 10-yard pass along the Chargers' sideline. He landed awkwardly on the ball and was immediately in a lot of pain.
A tough customer who already had come back in just a week from what looked like a nasty ankle injury in Denver earlier this season, Musgrave somehow finished the game. He had one incomplete pass thrown his way after the injury, winding up his day with four catches for 28 yards.
"Not horrible," Musgrave said of how difficult it was to power through at the time. "I knew something was probably wrong, but it's kind of football. You play through pain and then it usually hurts more after the game."
That's indeed what transpired, as his lower back really started hurting after he went home. Then when he spotted blood in his urine, he "put the pieces together pretty quickly."
He called the team's director of sports medicine and head athletic trainer Bryan Engel, who advised him to go to the emergency room immediately. He was diagnosed with a grade 4 (out of 5) kidney laceration, and because the injury got worse overnight, he stayed an extra day in the hospital.
"Yeah, it wasn't awesome," Musgrave deadpanned regarding how serious and potentially scary it was, adding he was just thankful he didn't need an emergency surgery.
"Internal organs are definitely a little bit different than your normal football injury. But good people, good team, a lot of good stuff to say about the training room. It was good, and I think we're on the right track."
He's still very much in recovery mode, which mostly requires rest, but he's feeling much better than a few weeks ago. As for the road back to the field, the second-round draft pick from Oregon State is just waiting for the medical green light.
Musgrave, who has 33 catches for 341 yards and a TD this season, is fired up about the prospect of being reincorporated into the offense with the emergence of fellow rookie tight end Tucker Kraft in his absence. He says it's been "awesome" to see his friend and fellow draft pick "play his brand of football." Kraft is up to 18 catches for 216 yards and two TDs now.
Musgrave knows it's not his call, but he'll be back out there as soon as he's cleared.
"I think you can have pain," he said. "The issue is kidneys can regulate blood pressure, you don't want to reinjure it, you don't want to have more bleeds, but so far it's looking all right.
"I'll play through pain," he continued, reiterating perhaps the understatement of the year given all that's occurred this rookie season. "It might be a little different when it comes to internal stuff. I don't want to have long-term issues, so if I'm safe to play, I'll play through pain."