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'Life is better with a helmet on': Ryan Jensen reflects on remarkable recovery to make 2022 season debut in playoffs

Ryan Jensen returned to action in the Buccaneers lone playoff game after suffering a significant knee injury on the second day of Training Camp.

TAMPA, Fla. — Before the Buccaneers season ended, there was a cherished moment before a snap was even taken.

For the first time in the 2022 season, center Ryan Jensen stood next to quarterback Tom Brady in the tunnel. He gave him a fist bump and led his team onto the field at Raymond James Stadium.

"You know, it's a very lonely moment when you're laying on the field and, you know, your season is probably over," Ryan Jensen said. "It was a test mentally alongside physically."

On the second day of Training Camp, Ryan Jensen was carted off the practice field at One Buc Place after getting rolled up on during an innocuous rep.

The team was not even in pads. This never should have happened.

We also never learned the severity of that knee injury until after the Cowboys game was over.

"I ended up tearing my MCL, (partially) my ACL and my PCL. I flipped my meniscus," Jensen said. "I had a fracture and another little bone chip thing."

Almost every doctor he spoke to said he needed season-ending surgery, but there was a glimmer of hope.

"There's only one doctor that said I didn't need surgery. He said 'give me eight weeks and we'll go from there.'"

With Super Bowl expectations, Tom Brady's right hand man spent the next five months working his tail off without the guarantee of even knowing if he could ever suit up when the playoffs came around.

"Some call it dumb, but I'm a football player and football players, play football," Jensen said.

Whether you're a rookie or playing in this league for 23 years, Ryan Jensen's work ethic is a tone setter in that locker room and organization.

"Says a lot about who he is and certainly a guy you can depend on and count on," Tom Brady said.

Luke Goedeke also said, "I mean he's a guy I really look up to and it was an absolute honor to play next to him. He gave his all for us."

Head coach Todd Bowles was prepared to split the game between Jensen and Robert Hainsey, but that was never a thought for the center.

"If I was going to go I was going to go," Jensen said. "They would have had to drag me off that field. So there was no question in my mind that I was going the whole game."

He does not expect to have offseason surgery.

In terms of the team, there isn't a happy ending like Steven Stamkos' 2 minutes and 47 seconds in the 2020 Stanley Cup Final.

But the night for Jensen should be revered in similar fashion. 

Despite the loss, the months of pain for this moment was worth it.

"Life is better with a helmet on."

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