Cardinals’ Zach Allen on ankle: ‘Tape was the only thing’ holding it together
TEMPE — Arizona Cardinals defensive lineman Zach Allen took a noticeable leap in his NFL progression last season.
Getting even more reps in the defense and picking up valuable knowledge from J.J. Watt, Allen went from the player waiting in the wings to an every-game starter.
Unfortunately for Allen, an ankle injury hindered the lineman late in the season. But shredded ligaments and bone chips didn’t stop him from pushing through the pain and setting career marks in sacks (four), tackles (48), QB hits (14) and passes defensed (four).
“It was tough. I think … Indianapolis, right after that game (on Christmas), we finally did the MRI and we saw kind of what it actually was,” Allen said Wednesday. “We knew surgery was an option but we were able to kind of play through it and luckily there’s a lot of tape and a lot of Toradol (an anti-inflammatory drug) out there so we were able to make it work and kind of keep it together.
“I literally had no ligaments in my ankle. My tibia was basically floating so the tape was the only thing kind of holding it together.”
Once the season came to a close, Allen wasted no time getting surgery on the ankle. He didn’t specify the injury but said it was enough that hardware had to be put in.
Since then, it’s been nothing but rehab and constant work for the lineman, who went as far as to say he’s feeling better at this point in the offseason compared to going into last year. The only days off were over Easter, and even then he was still grinding on his own.
He credits the work of the rehab and strength teams as well as having Watt and other guys to lean on throughout the downtime.
Still, not being able to hit the practice field with his teammates over OTAs and minicamp had it’s mental hurdles.
“Once they started practicing, mentally it got tough because you want to get out there and stuff,” Allen said. “But the nice thing is there’s been no setbacks, no anything like that to deal with. It’s just kind of always been a nice progression. We’ve been ahead of schedule the whole time, which has been nice. It’s been really good.”
Allen’s next target in his rehab is to be full-go by training camp. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury expects it, as does the lineman.
And that’s not the only thing Allen is eyeing as he looks to continue to build up his NFL resume.
“I think I definitely have more in the tank, I’m excited to do a full season — knock on wood — healthy, not trying to battle through too many things,” Allen said. “I think also now going into Year 4, probably take on more of a leadership role.
“It’s funny — it seems like yesterday you were the young guy asking all the questions. Now, you got young guys asking you questions. … Honestly, this offseason has been great. I know we’ve lost some good players but we also gained some really good players, and I just think we’re doing really well.”