If things go as planned next week, Pittsburgh Steelers second year linebacker Sean Spence will reportedly return to practice field for the first time since suffering a serious knee injury during the 2012 preseason finale against the Carolina Panthers. Since the news first broke about his return on Friday, a few have asked me via email and Twitter what my expectations are for him. As of right now, I don't have any and neither should you.
For starters, merely getting Spence back on the field is a huge accomplishment in itself. This is young man that many thought would never play again after it was learned he damaged the peroneal nerve in his left knee. That kind of nerve damage can lead to a condition known as drop foot which prevents one from being able to lift the foot at the ankle.
Naysayers aside, Spence vowed to return this year and assuming things go well in practice over the course of the next week or three, he will be activated to the Steelers 53 man roster. As far as what the future holds for the Steelers 2012 third-round draft pick at that point will all depend on his play and ability to get back into football mode.
Assuming he gets activated to the Steelers 53 man roster, one would think Spence would see action initially on special teams. That was the initial plan for him even before he was injured. Him running down the field to cover a kick or punt will be deserving of a standing ovation at this point. Should he only play on special teams the remainder of the season, that should be considered a win for not only Spence, but the Steelers as well.
Now, here is an uplifting thought about Spence. Per the rules of the PUP list, the Steelers could have waited a few more weeks before removing him from it because of the three week window available to them. The fact that they are allowing him to practice as soon as he was eligible to do so per the PUP list rules means they like where he is at right now. In other words, they think he is as ready as he will ever be. If he wasn't, they would have waited a few more weeks. That's great news.
This is the part of the post where I am supposed to tell you all not to get your hopes up about Spence, but I am going to refrain from doing that. Spence is a motivated young man that has worked very hard to get to this point. Spence's hopes have been up for some time now and so too shall ours continue to be. Let's not worry about expectations right now as there will be plenty of time for that later. Let's just celebrate his return right now as that in itself beat the expectations of many.