David Patten walked out onto the Redskins Park practice fields on Monday, in full pads and shorts, happy to be focused on football again.
A week ago, the veteran wide receiver was suffering from intense migraine headaches, as part of viral meningitis that he had contracted the night before the start of training camp. He had been hospitalized for three days and missed the first week of camp as well as the Aug. 5 scrimmage.
After his first practice of 2006 training camp, Patten sat back and smiled, a sense of relief across his face.
"I feel wonderful," he said. "I thank the Lord. It was a rough scare for a couple days. I have my strength back and now it's just a matter of easing into this thing and getting in line with the rest of the guys."
Patten has no idea how he contracted the illness.
"The only thing I can think of is, over the six-week period, I was just trying to get everything done while I was home on break," he said. "I was probably just run down and my immune system was pretty low."
At first, Patten had a mild headache, but his symptoms became serious on July 31, the date that players reported to training camp for a team meeting. Along with the migraine headaches, he experienced a fever and stiff neck.
"It was truly a rough experience I wouldn't wish on anyone," he said.
Doctors released Patten from the hospital on Thursday. He attended last Friday's practice and watched from the sidelines.
Now back at Redskins Park, Patten feels better than expected. Doctors and athletic trainers have told him to ease back into on-field work.
"I'm trying to be obedient, but I really feel pretty good," he said.
Patten is not viewing the illness as a setback in his goal to earn significant playing time this season.
Patten, 31, acknowledges that he is a week behind fellow receivers Antwaan Randle El, Brandon Lloyd, James Thrash and Taylor Jacobs, among others. But he is also eager to compete.
Patten caught 22 passes for 217 yards last year before a knee injury cut short his season.
"My 10 years in the league has always been about competing," he said. "It's always been about the best man winning the job. They let me know from the onset, when they brought those two guys in, they told us first of all it's a chance for our team to get better, and they told me straight up, those guys want to play. Whoever is the best guy on the field is going to make us that much of a better team."
It's uncertain whether Patten will play in this Sunday's preseason opener at Cincinnati.
"It's up to the coaches right now," he said. "I think they will take it slow. It depends on what they will allow me to do. If it was up to me, I'd be out there."
Said head coach Joe Gibbs: "He was back at practice just getting in the groove a little bit. It will be a while before we give him any serious work. It was good to have him back out there."