Nose tackle Casey Hampton has his sights set on one thing – returning in time to play against the Denver Broncos in the season opener on Sept. 9 on NBC’s Sunday Night Football.
“My thing is to be ready for the first game,” said Hampton. “That is what I am aiming for. I just need to keep progressing. My goal is to be out there for the first game. That is what I am working toward. I can see myself being out there.”
Hampton was placed on the physically unable to perform list prior to the start of training camp as he comes back from an ACL injury suffered in the playoff loss at Denver last year. He was taken off the PUP list last week, but his problems aren’t over.
Hampton’s left elbow has also bothered him and he said he recently, “got the elbow fixed,” and it’s healing.
“It’s been an issue,” said Hampton. “When you get to my age everything kind of hurts a little bit. It was something that was nagging me, and didn’t go away so I had to take care of it.
“I just got the elbow fixed so I have to let it heal up and let it get right. It’s just been bothering me for a while. I have to let it heal up for a little bit. It’s cool. I’ll be out there pretty soon, hopefully. I’m not worried about my knee at all.”
Hampton, who never has been a fan of training camp practices, understands that he will need to get time on the field before he can play.
“Hopefully I will get out there soon enough,” said Hampton. “I complain a lot about camp, but you do need to put the pads on and get acclimated. Maybe not for a month, but you do need it to get ready to play. I always knew that. You don’t have to like to practice. I still don’t but you need work to get ready to play.”
Nose tackle Steve McLendon has stepped in for Hampton so far this preseason, and while Hampton wants to start against the Broncos he knows if he has to work his way back gradually that McLendon can be counted on.
“I am sure I am not going to be in the best shape when I get back after not playing football,” said Hampton. “He has earned his right to be out there. It’s definitely good having a guy playing with you that is capable of getting the job done. I am comfortable with him out there.”
Hampton has been enjoying watching McLendon’s progress and knows that there is a lot more to come.
“He can be a very good player,” said Hampton. “He’s just scratching the surface of how good he can be. When he figures it out and realizes how good he is, the sky is the limit for him. I definitely think he can be a great player in this league.
“I think what everybody is seeing isn’t even close to the kind of player he can be.”
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