Tyler Johnstone is able to play football again with one piece of doctors' advice.
"He said 'Don't be Tommy Badass right off the bat'," Johnstone said with a smile. "Just do what you can."
Johnstone has been cleared medically after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in Oregon's 30-7 win Dec. 30 against Texas in the Alamo Bowl. He plans to be on the field exactly eight months later when Oregon opens the season at home against South Dakota.
"That's a pretty good possibility, whether it is limited reps or full go," said Johnstone, who has started all 26 games at left tackle in his two years at Oregon. "It all depends on what is going on during fall camp, I just have to feel it out. I have to trust myself and make decisions.
"The way the trainers put it, nobody knows my body like I do. I'm not going to try and come back too early on it, not going to push it. At the same time, I want to be back there to help my teammates."
Johnstone, 6-foot-6, 289 pounds, has been warned the return from a torn ACL can be as much mental as physical.
"Health-wise, I'm there, but it's just all about mental toughness and being comfortable playing again," he said. "I'm going to do everything I can to work into it, get my comfort with playing back. My doctor said 'The strength is there, the stability is there, so just take it slow and feel it out and get your feet back under you.'"
As he prepared for the first fall practice Monday, Johnstone planned to ease back into the mix.
"My knee feels pretty good, I think it's pretty much back to normal," he said. "I haven't tried going full speed yet. Running, everything like that, I am doing, but I just haven't practiced on it yet. I'm pretty confident and really excited to get back out there and be with the guys. On this kind of team, it kills you to be away from them."
With Johnstone perhaps returning to protect quarterback Marcus Mariota's back, Oregon would return all five starting offensive linemen from last year's team.
"We have that trust built with everybody," said Johnstone, who earned honorable mention all-Pac-12 Conference honors his sophomore season.
"First string and second string all know exactly how everyone plays and what calls will be made in certain situations. We have that trust and comfort in playing with each other, so that builds confidence and makes it easier."
Johnstone said the rehabilitation process went as well as he could have hoped.
"Everyone that has an injury like this has doubt at some point down the line, but the rehab was real smooth," he said. "The trainers did a good job keeping me focused and keeping at it. My confidence came back once I got back in the weight room and was doing all the regular lifts and getting back to a normal routine."
The final step of Johnstone's comeback will be when he takes the field at Autzen Stadium.
"I think my mind will turn to the game rather than my knee," he said. "Usually I don't worry about that kind of thing, about getting injured during a game.
"I just play my game and everything kind of happens."
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