It looks like Raekwon McMillan has not skipped a beat. Almost exactly one year after tearing the ACL in his left knee, he is again seeing regular practice opportunities with the New England Patriots’ starting defense.
Aligning in his usual spot as an off-the-ball linebacker, McMillan projects as a valuable member of the new-look unit — continuing to show the same potential he already displayed before his injury last year. The 26-year-old, however, does not appear to be interested in thinking back to 2021.
His focus, as he made clear after Friday’s practice, was on the future.
“I’m moving past last year,” McMillan said. “It’s a new year, new everything for me. The past is gone, we’re talking about the future.”
A former second-round draft pick by the Miami Dolphins, McMillan joined the Patriots last offseason on a one-year free agency deal. Despite being an under-the-radar signing compared to some of the others made by he club that spring, he soon established himself as a potential player to watch.
His knee injury put an end to any momentum he had been building, though. 12 months and a new one-year contract extension later, however, McMillan has found a new appreciation for the situation he is in.
“It’s a blessing to be out here with the guys,” he said. “[Ja’Whaun] Bentley, [Matthew] Judon, some of the guys on defense, [Davon] Godchaux, [Christian] Barmore — I could name everybody on defense. It’s just a blessing to see their smiles out there making plays with them and playing football again. This is where I found my peace at, so I’m glad to have my peace back.”
Returning from a season-ending injury is nothing new for McMillan. His very first preseason snap as a rookie in 2017, after all, also ended with a torn ACL in his right knee. Back then, he was able to come back strong the following season and eventually ended up starting all 16 of the Dolphins’ games as a sophomore.
Whether or not this year’s turnaround will be equally impressive cannot be said at this point in time. McMillan himself, however, is not worried about any of that.
His focus is simply on staying healthy and putting in the work.
“I learned a lot about myself over the last year,” he said. “With my health, trying to stay healthy. I have this new mantra; my boy Davion Mitchell plays for the Sacramento Kings from Hinesville, Georgia, he always says, ‘Trust your work.’ This whole summer I’m thinking about trusting the whole process of rehabbing and getting back to where I want to be.”
Based on the early portions of training camp it looks like McMillan is certainly getting close to that point. Of course, pads coming on next Monday will present another challenge in his recovery process — a challenge he has faced, and mastered, before.