VIERA, Fla. - Just before the end of the first period of today's U.S.-Czech Republic Olympic hockey game, which a number of Nationals players were intently watching on the lone TV in the clubhouse, Bryce Harper got up from his spot near the TV and headed to his locker to chat with a few reporters.
Most of us had seen Harper at NatsFest a little under a month ago, when he declared that he wasn't sure whether he'd be 100 percent healthy when spring training began due to lingering effects from his October surgery to repair and debride the bursa sac in his left knee. Harper seemingly participated in full during yesterday's casual, optional workout for position players, taking batting practice and shagging flies, and today he reported that the knee is in good shape and that he's ready for spring to begin.
"I feel good. I have no problem with it at all, no soreness," Harper said, wearing a shirt that read "PED Free". "It doesn't hurt at all. I feel good swinging and running. I'm doing cuts and things like that. I feel fine. My mobility is good. I feel like my strength is there, too. I feel very good.
"I'm solid. I'm solid as can be. ACL, meniscus, MCL, everything is solid and very, very good. I saved about 90 percent of my bursa, which is incredible. They didn't take it out or fully take it out. I'll have no bone on bone contact or anything like that. My knee is completely fine."
Harper has talked about how he likes adding weight and muscle during the winter to prepare for the season, during which he typically loses 10-15 lbs. He comes into camp this year weighing 220 lbs., he said, down from the 236 lbs. he weighed about a month ago. He's added muscle to his upper body (although not quite as much as he did entering last spring, when he looked like he'd been living in a gym), and has slowly built up strength in his lower body through bike riding.
"I've had a good mind about the whole time," Harper said. "Ever since I went to therapy, I worked very hard and he pushed me to the limit and he pushed me to the max to where I was dying some days. I was so tired and sweating and really working hard. But I'm going out hitting and swinging and not feeling any pain, being able to golf and run. Just hanging out and not hurting."
The biking became a big part of Harper's offseason workout regimen, largely because for the first couple of months after the surgery, he couldn't lift or do box jumps or participate in the normal lower body work that he does during the offseason. Harper seemed to really enjoy adding the bike riding to his routine, however.
"That's all I could do right now with my knee," Harper said. "I rode my bike for two months, then I started running and whatnot. I really enjoyed that, getting stronger and feeling better. I used to run hills, run stadiums, things like that. But I couldn't do that this offseason. I got on the bike and tried to push that to the max, push that to the limit. I really worked hard at that."
Everywhere Harper has gone over the last handful of months, he's had people bringing up the fact that he ran into the wall twice last season, most notably in Los Angeles, where the collision led to the knee injury and left Harper ailing throughout the rest of the season.
What did Harper learn from that experience?
"I'm just going to go right through it again," Harper said, jokingly. "That's just, yeah, that's what I'm going to do. Nah, I'm going to try and get better at that, and try to do some things the right way, and realize if it's a 7-0 ballgame I don't have to try to fricking rob a homer and try to be the hero when we're up 7-0. That was just a freak accident last year and that's something that just happened. I had no clue where I was and I just crushed the wall. I mean, (stuff) happens, I guess.
"Shoot, every single day I went into therapy, somebody said, 'Hey, don't run into a wall.' And, yeah, dummy, you don't walk across the street when there's cars coming."
As you can tell, Harper has a good sense of humor about the wall collisions at this point. He wasn't done with the jokes just yet, though.
"Babe Ruth ran into the wall in D.C. in (1924) and knocked himself out, so I'm in pretty damn good company right there," Harper said. "He had a good career."