On Tuesday, the Bills activated all-Pro cornerback Tre’Davious White, who has been sidelined since tearing the ACL in his left knee last Thanksgiving in a game at New Orleans.
White had been practicing with the team for the last few weeks, but was finally removed from the Physically Unable to Perform list and will be eligible for Sunday’s game at the Jets. Head coach Sean McDermott did not rule out giving White some snaps in the game at MetLife Stadium.
White had not spoken with the media since injuring his knee last Thanksgiving. After walking off the practice field Wednesday afternoon, he was surrounded by reporters and gave an in-depth, 17-minute interview.
He talked about being depressed in the early days after the injury and having to be dragged out of the basement by Bills staffers; realizing he had a higher purpose than simple being a football player; reveling in the extra time with his 5- and 3-year-old sons; texting with his old friend, Odell Beckham Jr.; and getting book recommendations from former NBC sideline reporter Michele Tafoya.
Here’s a transcript of White’s first interview in nearly a year. It’s been slightly (ever so slightly) edited for length.
Q. How did it feel to finally be on a practice field?
White: “It felt pretty good to be out there with my teammates. It was a blessing. It’s been a long road. It’s just a blessing to be out there moving around,.”
Q. What’s it been like, and what held you back?
White: “A lot of guys have been through it. A lot of guys I know. I lean on those guys, like Odell (Beckham Jr.) that I’ve known for a long time. It’s one of those things. It happens. It’s a 100 percent injury. Knee.”
Q. Are you limited right now and can you play Sunday?
White: “I’m just taking it day by day, listening to my body and the medical staff. Just go from there.”
Q. The team has been cautious. Do you think you could have been back earlier?
White: “I’m just taking it a day at a time. That approach has been working for me, so I’m going to keep it that way.”
Q. How much of this has been mental?
White: “I think anytime you go through an injury, it’s a mental thing. But I’ve been handling it the right way. I’ve got a lot of guys rooting for me. I’ve got a lot of the medical staff rooting for me, too. It’s been a trying time, but with the support of my teammates and the medical staff, I’ve been getting through it.”
Q. Did it help having the team be 6-1, so you didn’t feel a need to rush back?
White: “Oh, you see my team? My team’s pretty good. It’s been fun watching those guys. It’s not a surprise. Coach McDermott and Beane do a great job of getting guys in who buy into our scheme and the way we do things. When a guy does down, the next guy up knows what to do. There’s no drop-off.”
Q. What’s your confidence level in the leg?
White: “I’m just taking it a day at a time. With that approach, when I get back out there, it’s going to be the right time, and my leg will be right when I get back out there.”
Q. Does it help knowing there are big things down the road for this team?
White: “Yeah. You’ve got to think about that. We’ve got a great team. Those guys are doing a great job, limiting big plays and taking the ball away. So, you guys haven’t noticed I haven’t been out there. That’s a good thing!”
Q. How emotional was it when you went down and knew it would be awhile?
White: “It was very emotional, my first time going through anything like that. Since I was 6 or 7 years old, it’s been football, basketball, track, for the last 20 years. This is the first time I had to sit down. It gave me a different perspective.”
Q. In what way?
White: “I’ve got more to give than knocking a pass down or intercepting a ball. It’s the first time in my life I sat down as … Tre’Davious White. What more can I offer people? I started reading, getting into a different space. Learning about myself. What’s my purpose on Earth other than playing a football game?”
Q. Where are you in the physical process, cutting and the moves a defensive back has to make?
White: “It feels natural. It’s been a process of getting to where I am now. I’ve got a ways to go, but I’m looking forward to it.”
Q. What’s been more challenging, the physical or mental?
White: “It’s been a little bit of both. Definitely more physical. You’ve got to get back to moving, work it out. I had to basically build my body back up from the ground up. So, it’s been a challenge and something as a football player and a guy who’s been where I’ve been in my career, it was a different challenge. It’s something that I woke up every day ready to kick its ass.”
“It’s been fun. There’s been tough times, too. I have my days where it’s kicking my ass. But I have more days where I’m kicking its ass.”
Q. How confident are you that you can return to the elite level of player?
White: “I mean, I bust my ass during the process. So, when I come back and perform well, it’s not going to be a surprise to me. My teammates who have been around during the offseason, they know. The people I care about and that care about me know the amount of work and effort, and blood sweat and tears I’ve put into this rehab, they know.”
Q. Did that fuel you, to show people this wasn’t going to hold you back?
White: “Not really. I’m my own worst critic. It was a testament of me getting out of a slump. The first few months were very hard, a very depressing time. Locked up in my basement. Guys from the facility had to come drag me out of there. The first few weeks, it was tough.
Q. They had to drag you out?
White: “Like I said, this was unfamiliar territory for me. It was challenging. But I’m making it through and still getting through it now. I still have days, but better days than not. It’s good to have guys like Micah (Hyde) back. I can see him. He has ultra, ultra, ultra confidence and has raised my spirits up.
“To see (Dean) Marlowe back here, that’s another guy who brought my spirits up, too. It’s been a testament of myself working hard, but great teammates and great support.”
Q. When you do play, will you be limited at first, or able to go full?
White: “I’m going to listen to my coaches and the training staff. They know what’s best and whether I’m ready to go out full go. They’ll know when that is. I’m going out in practice and giving all I have on every rep and try to get my body back into football shape, and the football mind.”
“First couple of days, I forgot the damn stretches … But it’s been fun, getting back out there. It’s been a blessing to get back out there and stretch with my teammates, to hear the music, to joke with them. I know I’ve got a long way to go, but I’ve got people in my corner.”
Q. What were talks with Odell like, did you talk about him becoming a Bill?
White: “Oh, for sure. If you go through my texts, I think I’ve sent him 2,700 Buffalo Bills emojis. Odell is a good friend of mine. I’ve known him since 2013, played with him at LSU my freshman year. He’s the reason I moved from receiver to defensive back, him and Jarvis (Landry). I wasn’t going to get on the field my freshman year.
“Odell has been a great resource for me, a guy who has a lot of knowledge and has been doing it at a high level for a long period of time.”
Q. How important was family during your rehab?
White: “Oh, that was the main thing. I was able to take my son to school, do things I wouldn’t be able to do if I was playing football in a normal way. I was able to spend time with my little mans, my two little boys. Those guys keep me on my toes. Their personalities are starting to show. They’re 3 and 5 years old, they tell me what they want to do and not what I need them to do.
“I have a couple of funny stories. When I was on the crutches, my oldest son, once I took the crutches off, he said, ‘Dad, you don’t have crutches anymore? Your legs better?’ “I said, ‘Yeah, I’m getting there.’ Once I started walking normal, he’s like, ‘Dad, you want to play hide ’n seek?’
“It’s been fun. My kids are the number one thing to me. It was hard for them to see me down. But they got me through it. Each and every day, seeing them, good day or bad day, walking through that door, I’m still going to be Dad and they’re still going to love on me.”
Q. What’s the biggest thing you’re learned through this?
White: “It sat me down for the first time in my life. I got to see I’m bigger than a guy who puts a helmet on and goes to make tackles and knock passes down. I’m bigger than a football game. I’ve got more to offer people than football. That’s the space I’ve been in.
“I’ve read a ton of books. I’ve got a good friend from Sunday Night Football, Michele Tafoya. She sent me a book, ‘The Obstacle is the Way.’ Great read. I would recommend a lot of people to read it. Just getting through adversity. I was in a different space and a book like that gave me a lot of insight into what to look for and how to handle different situations.”
Q. Talk about the training staff.
White: “They’ve been with me since I was at my lowest. Those guys have been doing a great job. Joe Collins, Joe Micca, Marissa Figueroa, those are my three main people. Marissa is the athletic trainer. She scrubbed in through my surgery. She saw when they cut me open. My whole rehab, she’s been with me each and every day. Whenever I took a vacation in the summer, she tailored her time around mine. I owe a lot to her and both of the Joes.
“They give me confidence every day, pouring positivity into me every day. So, to them I owe a lot.”
Q. Micah Hyde said he leaned on you after his injury. How will you help other guys after what you’ve been through?
“Micah’s a guy I look to for advice, not just on the football field but life in general. He’s one of the good guys, a guy you root for and that everybody roots for. He’s been a great resource for me. He’s one of the best teammates I’ve had.”
“I’ve done a great deal of work, but I’ve had a lot of support along the way that helped me. It would be very selfish of me to take all the credit. I’m still going, still in the process, so I’m going to keep taking it a day at a time, and believe in my preparation and the day will come when I rise again.”
Q. What will that day be like?
White: “It’s going to be great. I’m pretty sure my teammates will be more ecstatic than I am. I haven’t been in a game since Nov. 26, or 24 (it was Nov. 25). It’s been awhile. It’s going to be fun. I’m looking forward to it. That’s why I’m working each and every day for it, so once I’m back out there I can put my best stuff out there.
“I just know that once I get back out there, I’m not going to be out there alone. I have a great team, a great group of guys that support me. So I’m looking forward to it, and I know it’s going to be great.”