The only reminders that Baltimore's Kelly Gregg missed all of last season after microfracture surgery were the scars on the nose tackle's left knee.
Gregg has been physically dominating offensive linemen at training camp, an indication that the surgery was a complete success. He is building an impressive comeback as he tries to regain his status as one of the most dominant run-stopping defensive linemen in the NFL.
Doctors drilled holes into his knee joint during the surgery to create scar tissue to replace an absence of cartilage in the joint.
"It's tough to shut it down for a year and bite the bullet, but I had to do it," Gregg said following a practice at McDaniel College. "Maybe that will add a year or two to my career. It wasn't getting no better. So, I had to finally look myself in the mirror and get 'er done.
"It feels good, no swelling. At this time last year, I would lay in my bed at training camp and I couldn't even straighten out my leg. I still have my sea legs, but they're coming back."
For the surgery to be an effective procedure, the knee joint has to bleed and scar properly. In Gregg's case, it knitted exceptionally well.
"They drill a hole in the bone to get it to bleed and, luckily, it worked," said Gregg, 32. "Some guys are 50-50 and don't make it back. I had no problems."
The best sign that the surgery didn't have any snags is how the 6-foot-0, 315-pound Gregg is able to run and cut without incident. He's also able to squat heavy weights again to maintain his powerful center of gravity. Gregg noted that he hasn't gained any weight during his convalescence.
Plus, Gregg hasn't had to take time off to give his surgically repaired knee a break.
"Sometimes in the past, I could feel my leg getting a little bigger and I'd have to take a rest," Gregg said. "I've never had to do that. Yeah, there's a little atrophy in there where it's not as strong as my right leg would be, but it's coming. I wouldn't get out here if I wasn't confident that I'm going to get through the training camp and feel good."
Now, he's intent on regaining his old form at his familiar position.
With Gregg back in the middle of the defense, an unmistakable old-school, folksy personality has returned to the Ravens as well. Gregg is one of the most intense, active nose guards in the league.
"He's one of those guys who has a presence in the huddle," defensive line coach Clarence Brooks said. "Kelly is so highly respected. I tell you what, he would intimidate me if I was a center. I wouldn't like playing against him at all."
Gregg is also one of the most productive defensive linemen in recent NFL history. The former University of Oklahoma standout has recorded 618 career tackles, 16 1/2 sacks, six fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles.
"Yeah, a lot of people thought I was dead," Gregg said. "I'm out there to compete. I look at how much I really miss the game. This is fun for me."
NOTES: Wide receiver Mark Clayton said that he'll be out a couple of weeks with a left hamstring injury. ... Tight end L.J. Smith (hamstring) returned to practice along with receiver Yamon Figurs (foot), who was activated from the physically unable to perform list. ... Not practicing: cornerback Samari Rolle (groin and neck), linebacker Antwan Barnes (minor concussion), tight end Davon Drew (right ankle) and safety Tom Zbikowski (groin).Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun