CARSON, Calif. – When David Beckham tore his Achilles tendon in March, any hopes of seeing him in a Galaxy uniform in 2010 seemed bleak.
A few days short of five months after his fateful injury, however, Beckham returned to the training grounds of the Home Depot Center on Wednesday and re-joined the Galaxy in the first step towards a full recovery.
His first practice session with the team this year was spent performing some light drills on the sidelines and stretching, while the Galaxy ran through an 11-on-11 scrimmage.
Returning to the squad, even if not training for a match on the weekend, is a boost for his morale.
“I’ve never had to do it before," Beckham said. "It’s tough. It’s tough not being out at training fields. It’s tough not being out playing in games. But these things happen in life. It’s about getting over it and getting back out there and I’m ready for that now.”
And while the earliest he is eligible to play this season is the Galaxy’s Sept. 4 match in Chicago, being back with the team is a major step forward.
Having not been able to participate in the World Cup or any of the Galaxy’s games this year, Beckham said he is now ready to concentrate on his task at hand.
“The focus is the team and repairing my tendon. That’s the biggest thing to me,” he said. “I’ve been hitting it so hard the last two years, every month, all year round is obviously tough on my body. It’s about getting back this season as soon as possible, playing the rest of the season and then taking the time to get the rest in and repair my body and being ready for next season.”
Achilles injuries can knock athletes out for six months or more, but Beckham is back ahead of schedule.
“A few people are [surprised], but I’m not. I expected to push myself to the limit and I have,” he said. “In my own head I could have been back a month ago. The doctors said Oct. 1, but hopefully it will be a few weeks before that.”
However, rushing to come back from the injury could cause long-term damage that might not be easily overcome. Thus, Beckham said, he would have to balance his desire to return along with his future health and fitness.
It’s something he has been dealing with essentially from the start of his rehabilitation process. The only difference now is that he’s able to run, and playing games is seemingly within reach, which might make the balancing act a bit more challenging.
“Talking to surgeons, talking to doctors I kind of knew what to expect,” he said. “The people I spoke to really were kind of saying, ‘You have to realize how serious this injury is. You have to take your time, don’t rush coming back because if you re-tear it you won’t play again.’ That kind of stuck in my mind and I kind of listened to the advice of doctors and physios and just did it myself.”
As far as returning this season, it seems it is a matter of “when” and not “if.” The Galaxy will play four games apiece in September and October, and six of those will be at home.
It's possible, then, that Beckham can still log some meaningful minutes down the stretch. But when he steps onto the field and alongside his teammates for the first time will ultimately come down to him.
“I never feel as if I can push myself enough,” he said. “I will know personally when I am ready. Obviously I have to listen to the advice of the doctors, but in the end, it will be me knowing whether I’m ready or not.”