KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Eric Fisher refuses to use offseason shoulder surgery as an excuse.
When the left tackle was beaten by a defensive end in a preseason game in Carolina on Sunday, the former No. 1 overall draft pick punched the ground in frustration. When Fisher was beaten again later in the game in pass protection, he could be seen seething through his facemask.
Afterward, Chiefs coach Andy Reid said the surgery — along with another procedure for a sports hernia — has made Fisher to be tired later in games, and that has led to his rather uneven performance. But while Fisher acknowledged that he’s still working his way back from the injuries, he also pointed out that he is still practicing and intends to keep playing.
“When I have the strength, I feel like I’m using it,” Fisher said, “and obviously after a major surgery your body is going to get fatigued. It was a long rehab. I stayed on top of everything, did everything I could. But right now it is just a rebuilding process.”
It’s a rebuilding process that can’t happen quickly enough.
The Chiefs are banking on a young, inexperienced offensive line to protect quarterback Alex Smith and clear holes for Jamaal Charles, and the results through two preseason games have been rough. Smith has struggled and the first-team offense has yet to score a touchdown.
Fisher could hold the key to turning things around.
Depending on when you start the tape, there are times when he looks positively dominant — the former basketball standout has the athletic ability to get into space, block downfield and help to spring Charles for those long runs. But there are also times when he looks lost, trying in vain to slow down some of the cagey, veteran pass rushers trying to get to the quarterback.
It’s on those plays, Reid said, that the injury seems to be a problem.
“As that arm gets tired, he has a tendency to not shoot it quite as fast as what he would when it’s fresh. I’m not even sure he’s conscious of that,” Reid explained. “You see that when players are coming off of knees. It’s the same thing. As the game goes on, they don’t play on it quite as well as they do early in the games. So, you work through it.”
There is also the transition back to left tackle, the position he played at Central Michigan, from right tackle, where he was forced to play during his rookie season.
Offensive line coach Andy Heck said last week that the transition should only take a couple of days, but offensive coordinator Doug Pederson said Tuesday that it has gone much slower.
“But we have all the confidence in the world with him,” Pederson said.
Around town, Fisher has become a popular scapegoat for the struggles of the offense, part of the burden that comes with being the No. 1 overall draft pick. But there are reasons to believe that he will eventually turn the corner, even if it takes a magnifying glass to see them.
He’s growing accustomed to bigger, faster and stronger defensive players. He’s getting used to the complex terminology and playbook. He’s building up his own strength, ever so slowly.
Perhaps most important, the game no longer goes by in the blink of an eye.
“It’s actually slowed down quite a bit, going from first year to second year. Everything’s slowed down major,” he said. “It is just amazing when you know the offense, you know what you are doing, you play fast, and that is what I have really enjoyed about this year.”
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