Coming off an All-Pro season, Frank Ragnow was expected to be an absolute force in 2021—his third year in the NFL. As an established top-five center in this league, Ragnow was one of Detroit’s better players and the literal centerpiece to an offensive line that would establish the running game back in Detroit and help fortify a strong, physical attitude for the new era of Lions football.
Unfortunately, Ragnow suffered a turf toe injury in the fourth game of the season, and it was a pretty serious one. Serious enough to sideline Ragnow for the rest of the season.
The good news is that Ragnow now considers himself back to full health.
“I’m feeling good. Feeling back to Frank,” Ragnow said during the first week of organized teams activities. “I mean, toward the end of the season, I was pretty close to (100%), to be honest. Had a couple weeks there, and then obviously slowing moving back into everything. But I’ve been good for a few months now—a couple months.”
That said, Ragnow admits it was hard to watch the team from the sidelines. He hadn’t suffered a serious injury since his a high ankle sprain in his senior year at Arkansas. But even then, he missed just five games. Last year, he missed 13.
“Being hurt, that was horrible,” Ragnow said. “You just gain a lot of respect for dudes who have to deal with injuries, because it’s gut-wrenching, man. You really don’t realize — like you’re obviously still a part of the team, but you don’t realize how you really don’t feel like you’re part of the team, and you feel like an outsider.
“When you’re out there on the field on those Sundays, and you’re in your gear, you’re like a gladiator. And I’m walking out there in a T-shirt and shorts, limping around? It’s a humbling feeling.”
The road back from injury isn’t easy. Obviously, there’s a physical aspect of rehabilitation that involves a lot of work. But for a lot of players, there’s a serious mental hurdle to clear. Ragnow admitted he went through that as the season went on last year.
”You just start to question, ‘Am I going to be the same player?’” Ragnow said. “But then once you start getting your reps and everything like that, even just getting through this offseason and getting back into my groove. I’m like, ‘Am I even going to be able to squat the same way?’ Then I check that box off, and kind of slowly climb it, and you get that confidence back hopefully.”
Now that he’s turned that mental corner, Ragnow is looking forward to re-joining his teammates and an offensive line that boasts three first-round picks, two Pro Bowlers, and the top tackle in last year’s draft class.
“If you look talent-wise, and just look at the dudes across the line, I mean, they were pretty dang good last year too, and I’d love to help them and boost them,” Ragnow said. “I think if we all get going and gel and stay healthy, I think we can be a pretty dang good o-line.”
Last year, the Lions' offensive line helped guide a running game to 4.4 yards per carry (13th highest in the NFL) and just 36 sacks (14th). Ragnow can’t wait to join them and see if he can help take them to the next level.
“So, so anxious,” Ragnow said.