Jarvis Landry made a promise to himself six years ago before he began his first season with the Miami Dolphins: He'll never miss a game.
He vowed to do everything he could to keep his body in shape to avoid injuries for the grind of each season he'd play and, of course, ensure that he was talented enough to be on the field every game day.
So far, that personal promise has been preserved — the wide receiver played in all 16 games of every season since 2014, and he's doing everything he can to keep that streak of 96 consecutive games alive in 2020.
That meant Landry needed to make a difficult decision after the final game last season. His hip bothered him all year, but he kept his promise, didn't miss a game and corralled a career-high 1,174 receiving yards in the process.
Would his hip naturally recover with rehab in the offseason, or should he undergo surgery and tackle an even lengthier rehab process to make certain it wouldn't be an issue next season?
After playing in the Pro Bowl, he picked the latter, and don't worry — he's feeling great.
"(Playing in every game) is one of the goals that I have set out for myself since I was a kid watching Monday Night Football," Landry said. "It is in my mind, but I am really focused on this rehab to make sure that I can be ready for the season."
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Landry underwent surgery in February and has been rehabbing from his home in Deerfield Beach, Florida. No players have been given access to their team headquarters during the COVID-19 pandemic, so Landry didn't have access to the equipment he would typically use if he was rehabbing in a normal offseason. He said the toughest challenge has been modality training, which often requires special heating equipment to relieve pain and accelerate the recovery process.
With the assistance of personal trainers and virtual communication from Anthony Trem, the Browns' physical therapist, Landry has successfully created an alternative plan that has allowed him to be on the same recovery path as he would be in any other offseason.
"Right now, I'm still a little bit ahead of schedule," Landry said. "It's just taking it day-by-day. I've had a great opportunity to continue working with the doctors and the staff. Everything has just been enhanced from what I've always done in the past. It's forced me to be more creative with the workout equipment I've had and the new equipment I've managed, but I can do the things to make sure I can play."
Landry admitted he wasn't set on undergoing surgery immediately after the season ended. In interviews during Pro Bowl weekend, Landry originally said that he wanted to only use rehab, and not surgery, to nurse his hip and make a return to the field.
Then, Landry reconsidered. That promise he had of never missing a game lingered in his thought process, and he knew that the Browns wouldn't be as strong if he wasn't on the field. The surgery would be worth it.
"I was going to try to put it off and play as the tough guy for one more year," Landry said, "but I just understood where I was and the things that my injury was not allowing me to do. I did not want to be part of the reason for the team to not have success or for myself to not have success."
Landry wasn't the only Browns receiver to play through an injury last season. Odell Beckham Jr. underwent surgery to repair a core muscle injury that nagged him since training camp. Landry said he hasn't seen Beckham in person, but the duo has continued to use FaceTime to communicate and update each other on their progress.
"Seeing his process has been motivating me, obviously, from afar, which he does automatically," Landry said. "The player he is, his work ethic motivates me. Right now, it's a crucial time in our recovery stages of getting our strength back. The healing process is kind of done."
Landry's return to the field might not come until midway through training camp, but he's continued to keep up with the extensive amount of Zoom video calls and virtual discussions new coach Kevin Stefanski has organized with players away from Cleveland.
If players do receive a chance to practice together before training camp, it's unlikely Landry will be a part of it.
But he expects to be ready for Week 1. That's the promise he's always had for himself, and he doesn't expect offseason surgery to break it.
"It's still something that's in the back of my mind," Landry said. "I want to make sure I'm healthy enough to be able to go out there and help the team win games — not hurt the team. It's in my mind, and I'm really focused on this rehab to make sure I can be ready for the season."