Ryne Robinson was working his way past defenders during the first few days of training camp, but a July 31 knee injury would scuttle his season. (PHOTO: ANDREW MASON / PANTHERS.COM)*
CHARLOTTE -- The emotional contrasts that gripped wide receiver Ryne Robinson last year were as understandable as they were obvious.
On one hand, couldn't have been more pleased for what his teammates accomplished while he sat on injured reserve. They went 12-4 and won a division title, and he did everything he could to remain part of the team in the locker room and on the sideline at Bank of America Stadium on game days.
"I just tried to trick myself into believing that I was going to be playing coming into every week," Robinson said. "So I prepared every week like I was going to play, minus the film, but just sticking around here all day, I still came into the stadium in the morning. I still got my workouts in. I worked with the training staff to get better.
"Then on game day, I went out and did my normal warm-up as if I was going to play in the game."
But that's where the conflict arose. They played. He couldn't, still in the throes of rehabilitation from a knee injury that he suffered while going out for a pass during training-camp practice on July 31, eventually forcing him to injured reserve after pain returned when he tried to return to practice in late September.
Every home game day, the adrenaline built as he went through the simulated mental preparation while the buzz of teammates, coaches and fans arriving at Bank of America Stadium built around him. But when it was time for the wide receivers to run onto the field, Robinson was all geeked up with nowhere to go.
"I went inside, took a shower and calmed myself down," he said. "That's what I did to deal with what was going on."
Robinson did his best to support his teammates, and shared as much as he could in the 12-4 finish. But a second-year player on injured reserve can only share so much.
"The guys showed up for every game and we played hard, but it was hard to sit on the sideline and watch," he said. "I'd never been injured to the point where I missed a whole season and wasn't able to perform on the field."
It was understandable, then, that as the Panthers parted following the season-ending loss, Robinson saw a bright spot on his horizon.
"It's a double-edged sword for me, because as this season ended, my new season began," he said. "I can't wait to get it started again and get a chance to show them I can play, that I can still do it.
"It's been a long season for me since July. I never really got a chance to pull on my jersey, except for taking the team picture. I'm excited. I'm excited for what we have here, and what we're going to have in the future."
It's a future he hopes to be a part of, when he hopes to take a delayed second step beyond a 2007 rookie campaign in which he was the Panthers' leading returner. By the time the season ended, Robinson was back on the run.
"I'm able to sprint. I'm able to cut. I'm able to jump. And I never really had a problem catching the ball," Robinson said. "We'll work at the more specific stuff as we go along."