GREEN BAY – It wasn’t until recently Demetri Goodson finally sat back and reflected on how far he’s come since Nov. 20, 2016.
The Packers’ cornerback and special-teams stalwart sustained one of the most gruesome leg injuries a player could endure while blocking on a Green Bay punt return during the second quarter of an eventual 42-24 loss in Washington.
Goodson didn’t need an MRI to tell him his season was over. With tears streaming down his face, he was carted up the tunnel at FedExField fully aware of the lengthy and difficult rehab he was facing.
Scans showed Goodson tore both the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee, dislocated his kneecap and tore both meniscuses.
“Yeah. It was pretty much everything,” said Goodson last week. “A lot of guys didn’t know that. They thought I tore one thing.”
Goodson attacked his rehab with the same energy and passion he’s been known for in the Packers’ locker room. On Wednesday, the 5-11, 197-pound cornerback was rewarded with an elevation back to the active roster after spending the first 12 weeks of the season on the physically unable to perform list.
It’s been a long process for Goodson and yet he still came in on the front side of the timeline for recovery. Sitting down recently with the doctors and training staff, Goodson was reminded a possible return to the football field wasn’t a guarantee one year ago considering the nature of his injury.
“I didn’t realize how bad my knee was and then doc one day was going through everything I did,” Goodson said. “He was like, ‘This (particular injury) normally takes seven months. This (other injury) normally takes eight months by itself. You did all of that. There’s not a lot of people who come back from this. You are truly blessed.’ The way I came in every single day and worked hard at it, it feels good to finally be able to play again.”
A point guard on Gonzaga’s Sweet 16 basketball team in 2009, Goodson played only one full season of football after transferring to Baylor in 2011. A raw prospect when he came to Green Bay, Goodson starred on special teams for two seasons before earning three starts on defense last year.
He and Jeff Janis combined in 2015 to compose one of the league’s most formidable gunner tandems on punt coverage. The duo helped Green Bay and punter Tim Masthay set a franchise record with a 40.3-yard net punting average.
Defensively, cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt has been effusive in his praise of Goodson’s development. Known primarily as a boundary cornerback, Goodson’s game had just started turning a corner at the time of his injury.
“Demetri Goodson has just been on an incredible path of rehab,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. “I cannot tell you how much he’s put into this, where he’s come from. He’s just been unbelievable in his approach. He’s still working through some things, but it’s great to have him back out there, have him practicing. It’s a very, very long road coming back from a significant, major injury, but he looks great.”
While rehabbing toward his return, Goodson has continued to bring energy to the cornerbacks room and special-teams meetings. As the eldest cornerback in the room, the 28-year-old Goodson has served as a valuable resource to a group that has only one other cornerback (Davon House) older than 26.
“Everybody has been rooting for this guy,” said House, who was reunited with Goodson when he re-signed with the Packers last offsesaon. “Nobody thought he could bounce back the way he’s bouncing back. Look at him, he’s out there at practicing, running full speed. Everyone is rooting for him and everyone wants him to play. If he’s out there, it’s going to be good for us.”
Goodson is realistic about what his role will be after more than a year out. Although Kevin King (shoulder) already has been ruled out for Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay, second-year cornerback Josh Hawkins has spelled the rookie for much of the season.
Goodson hopes to make an immediate contribution on special teams. Despite the severity of his injury, the fourth-year veteran doesn’t feel it’s zapped him of any speed or athletic ability.
He also wants to come through for all the teammates who encouraged him over the past year.
“The whole time I was trying to come back, all the guys were encouraging me,” Goodson said. “They were like, ‘Meech, we need you. Meech, we need you.’ That kind of kept me going and they were always there for me, too.
“That’s just the type of guy I am. I’m always upbeat. I think this team definitely needs something like that right now. They just need that extra little boost right now. I think I can give them that for sure.”