Whatever it takes,
But when it comes to the knee that has bothered him through much of his first two NFL seasons, Alualu – the No. 10 overall selection in the 2010 NFL Draft – said the thought for now is surgery may not be the necessary option.
Instead, Alualu said his focus during the early part of the 2012 off-season will be rehabilitating and strengthening the knee, with a continued emphasis on proper rest.
Sometime during the off-season, he said he and the Jaguars will evaluate the situation.
“I’ll do whatever it takes to get it back where it needs to be,” Alualu said Tuesday, a little more than a week after the end of his second NFL season. “I’m trying to get it back to the best possible (status) it can get, and we’ll see from there.”
Of off-season surgery, Alualu said, “My mindset now is if I don’t need it, I don’t want it.”
“My plan now is to stay on strengthening,” he added. “I know what I need to do with the trainers to get it strong and get it stable. As of right now, that’s the plan.”
Alualu said one reason for eschewing surgery and focusing on rehabilitating and strengthening the knee is the positive effect of the Jaguars’ approach to his practice schedule this past season.
The Jaguars beginning early last season had Alualu practice on a limited basis on Wednesdays, and Alualu said by late in the season the knee felt significantly better.
“It feels a lot better than when it started off the season and at midseason,” Alualu said. “That’s what I talked to the trainers about. The schedule they put me on made my knee feel better at Week 16, Week 17, than it did midseason and how it started off.
“Right now, it’s trying to keep up with strengthening and whatever it takes. We’ll have to reevaluate it later, but it feels fine now.”
Alualu said the off-season approach was something he discussed with Jaguars General Manager Gene Smith.
“He asked how it felt, and what I thought about it,” Alualu said. “I gave him my thoughts, that I feel the rehab and strengthening that I do with the trainers will help my knee become better. After all that is said and done, we’ll reevaluate it later. My hope is that it will feel a lot better and close to 100 percent.”
Alualu said while he isn’t planning on surgery, his approach this off-season is different than that of last off-season.
“Last off-season I just went with the mindset that rest would make it better,” he said. “It felt like it got better, but I know that I need to stay on strength and conditioning and I know it will be a big help for me. That’s the biggest difference for me this year, knowing what I need to do with strengthening and rehab on my knee to get to the best possible state it can be for the upcoming season.”
Alualu said the hope is focusing on strengthening, conditioning and rest “will help me prolong my career, and that’s kind of the biggest thing the trainers talked to me about.”
“To this day, I’m still not used to being one of the players who sits out practice on Wednesdays,” Alualu said. “I’ve always been a player who likes to be out there with my teammates and get the reps. I’ve always been like that – from high school to college.
“For it to change now still kind of feels weird to me. There are days I still try to sneak in and get some reps with coaches, but they know better than I do in terms of trying to be fresh. That’s the biggest thing they talk to me about – that if I want to have a long career, I have to be smarter about it.”
Alualu, who played collegiately at California, has started every game in his first two seasons. This past season he finished fifth on the team with 81 tackles, and had 2.5 sacks. He led the team with 12 passes defensed, and also had four tackles for loss and 22 quarterback pressures.
The pressures total was second on the team.
“I feel like I’ve grown a bunch since I first came here,” said Alualu, who had 77 tackles and 3.5 sacks as a rookie. “Talking to coaches, I think they felt the same way. Talking with Coach (defensive line coach Joe) Cullen and Coach (interim coach/defensive coordinator Mel ) Tucker, that’s what I’ve gotten from them. I felt like I did take a leap this year in understanding the game better and knowing how to play.
“Last year, I was coming in as a rookie and there’s a lot on your mind. I played off reaction. I went out there and just hoped I was right most of the time. I feel like I’ve gotten better, but I feel like there’s a lot of work to be done to get to where I want to be.”
While Alualu said the knee has bothered and limited him, he said that’s not something he much wanted to discuss this past season.
“I think everybody at this level wishes they could be 100 percent,” Alualu said. “It’s like the saying, ‘You just have to play the card that you’re dealt.’ It’s unfortunate that it’s something I’ve had to play through. I wish I could play with my knee 100 percent, but I don’t complain about it. I make the best of this opportunity that I’m given to play this game. I’m blessed.
“There are people in worse situations than I am, especially at this level. For me to play through two seasons, I can’t complain.”
Alualu on Tuesday also discussed the origins of the injury, and said while there has been much speculation on the issue, the reality is he doesn’t know exactly when the injury occurred.
“A lot of people made up their own ways of how I got hurt,” he said. “Some people said, ‘Oklahoma Drill.’ I can’t remember the exact play. I think the everyday two-a-day kind of got to it.”
Alualu said for the short-term, his off-season plans include a brief trip to his native Hawaii. He said that trip will last only about a week and a half, and by mid-February he will return to Jacksonville to fully focus on the strengthening and rehabilitation process.
“I’ll be back and staying on top of it,” he said. “I know how big it is and the importance of getting it right for this upcoming season. I’m looking forward to it.
“I feel good about it. My knee felt better at Week 16 and 17 than it did early on, and I think if I stay on it and do what I’m supposed to do and do a little extra this off-season, I think I’ll come back feeling a lot better and in a better situation than I was last year.”