At this time last year, running back Roy Helu was training for an uncertain future. The 2011 NFL Draft was less than two weeks away, and his future employer was in the middle of a prolonged work stoppage.
Helu remembered that he spent most of last offseason preparing under the schedule used by the NCAA.
"Right now, we would have just finished spring ball, and we would have finished winter conditioning before that," he said. "So we would have been way ahead of where we're at right now."
Taken in the fourth round (105th overall) of last year's draft, Helu had 1,019 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns. He led the team in rushing yards (640) and was second among NFL rookie running backs.
Now, with a year under his belt, he has a much better idea of what to expect in 2012, and what is expected from him.
"After going through a season, you have a mental picture of what it takes, and what your coach wants through the season," Helu said. "This is new to me right now, but coming back better requires an emphasis on execution and how our coaches want us to play."
Towards the end of last season, Helu was hobbled by leg injuries that kept him from starting the last two games. He caught a 47-yard touchdown against the Eagles in Week 17, but came out of the game with a noticeable limp.
Helu dedicated the first few weeks of his offseason to rehabilitate and strengthen his legs for next season.
"It was a process, but patience, perseverance, and just peace helped me get through it," he explained. "I didn't have to push it to get better, and I feel like I'm back to where I need to be to start."
Each of last year's rookies has been present at the voluntary offseason workouts.