Lions' Ragnow had unnerving flashback after injury scare
Allen Park — It wasn't even the same ankle.
Not that it mattered. It didn't stop Frank Ragnow's mind from going to a dark place as he lie on the Ford Field turf, pondering the prospects of a second serious injury in three years and the extensive rehab that would come after.
It happened so fast.
Ragnow, the Detroit Lions starting center, snapped the ball and immediately turned to run left, looking to get ahead of running back C.J. Anderson, who was taking a handoff heading that direction.
Instead, Ragnow collided with rookie tight end T.J. Hockenson, who was spun around after missing his own block. Hockenson desperately grasped at Bills defensive end Shaq Lawson, catching his arm and causing him to stumble back into the side of Ragnow's leg.
Ragnow collapsed and lie face down for several seconds before rolling over, looking up helplessly at the rafters of the home stadium, his arms sprawled out to either side representing how helpless he probably felt in the moment.
Two long minutes after the collision, Ragnow needed the help of two trainers to leave the field, unable to put weight on his right leg. Shortly after he was carted back to the locker room.
"I had a little bit of PTSD, so I just laid there on the field with my arms stretched out," Ragnow said. "There was definitely a scare factor about what it was because the last time I hurt my ankle, it wasn't good."
The last time, the root of his fear, was in 2017, his senior season at Arkansas. Ragnow was having a dominant season, well on his way to being selected in the first round of the draft and likely to win some postseason awards for his performance. That was before he suffered a high ankle sprain in the team's seventh game.
That injury would require surgery and ended his college career.
In his rookie season with the Lions, he put that injury in the rear-view mirror, playing all but one of the team's 1,075 offensive snaps. And he only missed that one because his shoe disintegrated requiring a replacement.
Ragnow can't identify the moment it became clear this injury wasn't a repeat of the previous, but a day after it happened coach Matt Patricia confirmed it wasn't a season-ending issue, while the NFL Network reported it was a low-ankle sprain.
"I just felt it out, but I don't know if there was a specific time," Ragnow said. "It was more about each day passing realizing I was going to be OK."
Ragnow returned to the practice field this week as a limited participant each day. He's listed as questionable for the season opener for Arizona, but all indications from the portions of those practices open to the media is he'll be good to go.
From a performance perspective, the biggest difference between last year and this one for Ragnow is the confidence he was able to build through experience during his rookie campaign.
"It was a little bit of a whirlwind last year," he said. "Coming in as a first-round pick, you kind of put that pressure on yourself automatically, just wanting to be able impress right away. Then going against some of these top pass rushers, that's the whirlwind. "I think you always have the butterflies, but there's also more of a confidence," he continued. "I mean, just having a year under your belt in the NFL. This year I'm coming in more confident, more comfortable, just knowing the offense better."