Ann Arbor — Michigan nose tackle Bryan Mone watched from the sideline and worked.
Mone, who suffered a season-ending broken ankle during preseason camp last year, would work out with the other injured players on the sideline during games.
But he is healthy now, practicing hard this spring and eager to play an important role.
“I’m still a little rusty on little stuff,” Mone said after practice Tuesday, adding he needs to sharpen his footwork and hands technique. “That’s what I need to fix the most. I feel like I’m stronger and more explosive, faster.”
He is listed at 6-foot-4 and 325 pounds, and said that during rehab, he managed to improve himself physically. Most important were those Saturdays on the sideline.
“Watching them play football, you’re just pumping even harder to be back on the field because we were literally on the sideline working out and watching them,” Mone said. “It was just motivation.”
Mone suffered the injury during a special teams play.
“We blocked the kick,” he said. “One of the guys picked it up, so I started running and then I tripped on his back foot and landed on my other foot and broke my ankle.
“I heard a pop. I didn’t know it was going to be a season-ending injury.”
He asked to get the ankle taped so he could return, but it continued to swell.
“It was hard,” he said. “When you love something so much and let it go away, heartbroken. I was heartbroken.”
He said he could have played in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl game, but got back to full-contact practices while the team was in Florida making final preparations.
Mone worked against center Graham Glasgow.
“I wanted to go on the scout team go against the 1s so I wouldn’t be rusty going into spring ball,” Mone said. “It was amazing going against a future NFL center in Graham Glasgow. I felt like I got better.”
In a defensive line loaded with depth and experience, Mone still manages to stand out.
“(He has) a lot of energy,” defensive lineman Matt Godin said. “Very stout player. Just an overall great guy.”
Mone always was present in the building last fall, zipping around campus with his injured leg on a scooter.
“That was my baby; I had a basket up in front,” he said, laughing. “Hopefully I won’t see that again.”
In the end, he said he learned a lot about himself as he worked his way back from injury.
“Mental toughness, especially,” Mone said. “This injury was probably one of the hardest things I’ve gone through mentally. I feel like I got mentally strong because at a point I was like, ‘ I’m just heartbroken.’ But at the end of the day I was like, ‘You’ve got to toughen up.’ ”