When Tashaun Gipson fell to the turf Nov. 23 against the Atlanta Falcons with a knee injury, the pain was so excruciating he feared he would be out of the picture for 12 months.
Instead, Cleveland's medical staff only detected an MCL sprain, sidelining the safety for the season, but nothing long term.
While other NFL players may relax on a tropical island and indulge in some much needed -- and earned -- downtime, the Browns safety's motor doesn't stop.
Even with a barrage of snow that's hit Cleveland, Gipson's made the trek to the Browns facility each and every day.
"I'm making sure this knee isn't just 100 percent, but 110 percent," Gipson said Wednesday in Berea. "The rehab has been aggressive. And at times it's been painful. But the cliché is no pain, no gain. I just want to physically better myself as a player. And you know I love the city of Cleveland, so I don't mind being around here."
At the forefront of Gipson's mind during all the rehab has been the Pro Bowl. His six interceptions during the 2014 season catapulted the safety to the NFL's all-star event even though he missed the last five games of the season. Hardcore NFL fans recognize Gipson's name from the stat sheet, but many don't know how the 24-year-old plays on the field.
Gipson's goal? Make sure everyone watching the game remembers him.
"Everybody says the Pro Bowl is fun, but after last year you've seen the intensity – it's more competitive," Gipson said. "I want to be remembered being amongst the best of the best. I'm going to be out there with Earl Thomas and Eric Weddle, guys who I respect. I want to go out and show these guys, 'Hey, I belong here.'
"Me being young and undrafted, I just think it's a blessing to be able to rub shoulders with some of the greats that have played this game. The best of the best play in this game. Of course I'm going to go out there and try and make a statement."
In between the grueling rehab sessions and Pro Bowl preparations, Gipson pulls out his laptop to tackle his other objective of the offseason: finishing up his communications degree from the University of Wyoming.
Gipson has to complete one final biology course to pass before he receives his diploma. Science has never been his favorite subject.
"I don't think it should be hard, but anything with science is pretty complex to me," Gipson said, laughing.
Gipson also has to complete a 50-hour internship to graduate and plans to make the experience worthwhile, as he hopes to do something within the realm of football. A gifted speaker, the Pro Bowler has expressed interest in pursuing a career in media after he hangs up the cleats.
"I see the guys in commentating and I looked up to Nate Burleson when he was here," said Gipson, referring to the former Browns wide receiver who now works for NFL Network. "Seeing how he approached interviews, the way that he delivered his messages on TV is just huge. He took his degree to the next level. Guys like Redskins safety Ryan Clark who is on ESPN. I see those guys who are football players and have a life in the media after. I look up to those guys."
Once graduation comes in May, Gipson will walk across the stage in a cap and gown and shake hands as he receives his diploma. Even for a player who was among the league leaders in interceptions, the moment will serve as a crown jewel accomplishment.
"That will be a monumental day in my life," Gipson said. "This is just as huge as getting elected to the Pro Bowl, if not better. This degree, like the Pro Bowl, will never be taken away from me. It will be with me the rest of my life."
A gifted speaker, indeed.