ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP)Still unsure as to exactly when he’ll make his season debut, Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White can identify the lowest point of his near yearlong rehab after blowing out his left knee.
It was a few weeks after having surgery in December when White – feeling sorry for himself while facing a major injury for the first time in his career – essentially shut out the world by stewing in the basement of his home and refusing to come out.
”Locked up in my basement, they had to come drag me out of there,” White said Wednesday, referring to members of the Bills training staff.
”The first few months were very hard, a very depressing time,” he added. ”This is unfamiliar territory for me. So it was challenging. But I’m making it through. … I still have days, but more better days than not.”
The 25-year-old White had reason to be more upbeat in speaking to reporters for the first time since tearing a left knee ligament during a 31-6 win at New Orleans on Thanksgiving Day.
On Tuesday, White was activated to Buffalo’s roster following three weeks of practice, and could play as soon as Sunday, when the AFC-leading Bills (6-1) travel to face the New York Jets (5-3).
Coach Sean McDermott hasn’t ruled out White, though has been cautious throughout the cornerback’s recovery in stressing the team is not going to rush him into action.
As for White, the sixth-year player is sticking to what’s been his mantra over the past 11 months by taking things one step at a time.
”That approach has been working for me, so I’m just going to keep it that way,” he said, in response to questions of his return. ”It’s been a process of getting to where I’m at now. Got a ways to go, but I’m looking forward to it.”
What White doesn’t lack is confidence, in knowing he’s put the hard work in to resume playing at the same elite level as he was before getting hurt.
”I busted my (butt) during this process,” White said. ”So once I come back and perform well, it’s not going to be a surprise to me.”
His teammates have little doubt of White regaining his form as one of the NFL’s top pass defenders after seeing White’s daily workout regime over the past year.
”I’ll put every dollar on 27, every dollar I have,” safety Micah Hyde said, referring to White’s jersey number. ”I’ll put it on him that he’s gong to come back and be the player he was before because that’s the confidence I have in him.”
A starter since being selected by Buffalo in the first round of the 2017 draft, White formed what became one of the NFL’s top defensive backfields, rounded out by cornerback Levi Wallace, and the safety tandem of Hyde and Jordan Poyer. The foursome were part of a defense that led the league in fewest yards passing allowed in 2018 and last season, finished fourth in 2019 and 13th in 2020.
White was selected as an All-Pro in 2019 when he had a career-best six interceptions and credited for allowing just 45 completions and no touchdowns on 90 attempts thrown in his direction. His performance led to Buffalo signing White to a four-year, $69 million contract that locks him in through the 2025 season.
The Bills secondary has undergone changes since White last played. Hyde will miss the remainder of the season after sustaining a neck injury in Week 2, while Wallace left in free agency in March.
What impresses White is how the newcomers – rookie cornerbacks Kaiir Elam and Christian Benford – and injury replacements have held up on a defense which enters this week ranked among the NFL’s top five in numerous statistical categories, including first in fewest points allowed.
”Oh, you’ve seen my team. My team is pretty good, right,” White said. ”Man, it’s been fun watching those guys.”
Difficult as the past year has been, White said he gained perspective in growing as a person while also getting a chance to spend more time with his family, including his two young sons. He passed the time reading and playing hide and seek with his kids once he was off crutches.
”It was the first time in my life I sat down and was like, ‘Tre’Davious White, what else can I offer people?”’ I know I’m bigger than just a football game or just knocking down a pass,” he said.
White’s focus has turned back to football.
He’s been busy recruiting former LSU teammate, receiver Odell Beckham Jr., to sign with the Bills. ”I think I sent him probably 2,700 Buffalo Bills emojis,” White said of Beckham, who is unsigned while also recovering from a torn knee ligament.
White was so eager to resume practicing three weeks ago, he ran out on the field while forgetting he had to do stretches first.
On Wednesday, White walked toward the locker room when someone noted the grass stain on his practice jersey.
White looked down at the vibrant green marks on his right shoulder in delight and said: ”It’s been a long time. I actually got dirty today.”
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