Kansas City Chiefs CB Trent McDuffie faced many unexpected challenges right from the jump of his rookie campaign.
After a successful offseason and training camp, McDuffie played just 32 snaps in Week 1 before encountering a significant hamstring injury. He wouldn’t play again for the next seven weeks. It was the first time in his football playing career that he missed such a significant length of time.
“That was honestly one of the hardest things I had to do just in sports,” McDuffie told reporters on Friday. “I never had an injury that affected me for such a long period and disabled me pretty much for so long.”
While being off the football field for so long was challenging, it allowed McDuffie to craft and perfect a routine that he was able to adapt once he returned to action.
“During that process I think the biggest thing that helped me was just sticking to the consistency of just the every day going to meetings, showing up to practice, just acting like I was playing every week,” McDuffie said. “But just the positivity that (I was surrounded by) whether it was family and friends, whether it was coming to this building with coaches and players just consistency lifting me up. They really just allowed me to stay confident throughout the whole thing and come back like I never left.”
The truth, however, is that it wasn’t just as easy as crafting a routine. McDuffie had to learn on the fly and he really challenged himself to ensure that he was up to speed and capable as soon as he returned from injury.
“Honestly, I feel like this season was a huge learning curve for me,” McDuffie said. “Especially coming (in), getting hurt, and then missing a bunch of games and coming back halfway through the season. For me it was just trying to learn something each and every week, each and every day because as rookies coming in, we don’t really know the game, we don’t know the speed of it. A lot of things are new to us (from) scheduling-wise all the way to football. Trying just to keep an open mind. Trying to just constantly learn, (trying to) learn from the vets (and) learn from other rookies.
“(It was) something that I took pride in this year, and I think is the reason why it has helped me so much just throughout the year consistently getting better because I just felt like it was my duty to try to match everybody else as quickly as possible when I came back so that’s kind of just how I wired myself throughout the season.”
Now, fully ingratiated into the defense, McDuffie is encountering a full-circle moment. In Super Bowl LVII, he’ll return to the site of Week 1 injury at Arizona’s State Farm Stadium better prepared for the task that lies ahead.