The last five weeks haven't been easy on Tom Zbikowski.
Since suffering a series of injuries to his right heel in the Ravens' loss to the Patriots back in Week 6, the third-year safety has spent most of his days stuck in the training room at team headquarters trying to let the heel, well, heal.
"It's been terrible," Zbikowski said. "Miserable. Any other adjective you want to put in there, that's what it's been."
How has he been able to stay positive throughout the rehab process?
"Reading self-help books," Zbikowski joked, trying to keep a straight face. "'Don't jump' books. Those tend to work. Self worth books, things like that. Reading helps."
Other than reading, Zbikowski hadn't been able to do much for a good portion of the last month-plus. He was in a walking boot for a couple weeks, and going into today, he hadn't practiced since suffering the injury against New England.
Today, however, Zbikowski said he feels healthy enough to put on the pads and test out the heel in practice.
"It's feeling good. I'm going to practice today and see how it feels," he said. "I think I'll be able to tell a lot more tomorrow, see how sore it is. It's been feeling good. Worked on it yesterday and the day before, so I just want to get out to practice and see how it feels."
Head coach John Harbaugh said that while the Ravens had been hopeful that Zbikowski would be able to start practicing in previous weeks, the safety has made good progress lately and could be ready to play this Sunday against the Buccaneers.
"Zibby's got a good chance," Harbaugh said. "Hopefully, he'll be there. We just have to see how he practices today. We've got our fingers crossed."
Zbikowski said that while he was in a good amount of pain when he first suffered the injury, he didn't expect his rehab to take this long.
What's made getting healthy such a tough process, however, is that he suffered a bone bruise where his heel connects to the pantar fascia, a thick connective tissue which supports the arch of the foot. That caused issues in both of those areas, and left a good part of his right foot in pain.
He's been getting massages and a variety of treatments to try and get circulation to the affected areas, and says that he'll wear orthodics and will have his foot taped a certain way to try and support the heel area.
The Notre Dame product said that despite missing five weeks, being put on Injured Reserve was never something that was discussed. That didn't stop Zbikowski from worrying that the injury could affect the rest of his season, however.
"It pops in your mind, though, you know what I mean?" Zbikowski said. "You're sitting there week three, week four [of the injury], and even last week you're not feeling as good as you are right now. I wouldn't say it's 100 percent, I'd say it's getting close. I knew I was going to come back because there was nothing broke, but I don't know how that works. I know once you're on [IR] you're done, so I was not looking to get on it at all.
"It was giving me some pain back there, but it's feeling good now."