Lions center Frank Ragnow missed most of the 2021 season due to a turf toe injury. A new but similar injury to the same toe cost him one game early last season, but he did not miss a meaningful snap from there as he detailed how he managed the lingering injury on a weekly basis.
Ragnow set of alarms back in May when he deemed his toe issue to be "inoperable", which he circled back early in training camp to correct. But there's no denying he will likely be dealing with the toe issue for the rest of his career, with regular absences from practice to make sure he's good to go on Sundays.
After an NFLPA survey showed some shortcomings in that area, the Lions made changes to their training staff this offseason. Brett Fischer was hired as the new Director of Player Health and Performance, and Mike Sundeen was brought in to be the new head athletic trainer.
Frank Ragnow talks candidly about dealing with his toe injury
It'd be entirely understandable for Ragnow to struggle mentally with his injury; worrying about making it worse, practicing as much as he wants to or shortening his career. He spoke to the media on Monday, acknowledging his struggle and in particular Fischer's helpful role.
"“I can’t say enough about (Brett Fischer) Fisch. I was in a dark place, I’m not going to lie, with this toe. They’ve been able to make me see the light."
Ragnow then dropped the kind of quote that's typical of his sessions with the media, when talking about how much his injury is on Fischer's mind.
"Oh, he’s awesome, man,” Ragnow said of Fischer. “He tells me he thinks more about my toe than he does his wife sometimes, which is tough. I feel bad about that, but he really puts forth his best effort every single day trying to think about how to put me in the best positions, and I’m very, very grateful for that. All those guys in there, they’re all great dudes and they work their tails off to put everybody in the right position, whether that’s prehab or rehab, they’ve been great on that side of it and I think the whole team is really feeling it."
Ragnow's toe issue could certainly lead to other injuries (knee, hip, groin), in a kinetic chain effect. He noted exercises he's doing the Lions' medical team to keep his toe, as Fischer called it "like the foundation of a house", in order.
"Everything starts from the ground up," said Ragnow. "When something’s off on the ground, it works its way up. So just being proactive in everything we do with the foot, the ankle, the hip, everything all the way up to make sure it's not inhibiting me in any area.""
Ragnow also said he's seen tongue in cheek offers from Lions' fans on Twitter to donate him a toe, but "I don't need anyone's toe." It does appear he has two fully-functioning feet/legs for the first time in nearly two years, and he was a Pro Bowler last year essentially playing on one leg.