THE COLONY, Texas -- When training camp begins in late July in Oxnard, California, Dallas Cowboys center Travis Frederick plans to do all he can after he missed all of the 2018 season dealing with Guillain-Barré syndrome, an autoimmune disease that affects the nervous system.
"I think that's where we are in the point of recovery, and I think that's going to be an important step to my return, being able to go through [practice in pads], and there's going to be rust," Frederick said Tuesday at his Block Out Hunger Foundation's event. "You're going to have to knock the rust off during training camp and get back to doing those. You can do the movements on air as much as you want, but it's not until you're going against a live person that you feel football."
Frederick has gone through the early parts of the offseason program, including the teaching sessions the past two weeks, but he will not go through team drills in the upcoming OTAs and mandatory minicamp in June because of shoulder surgery performed after the 2018 season.
Dallas Cowboys Center Travis Frederick and his teammates as they trade in their uniforms and helmets for clubs and tees to become celebrity golfers for an evening at Topgolf The Colony. #DC4L #CowboysXP 🔥🔥🔥— Law Thomas (@LawsNation) May 15, 2019
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He said his strength, "feels like I'm back, close to if not full strength."
The shoulder is also coming along.
"I'm just getting to the end of the quote-unquote recovery program, if you will, for a shoulder," Frederick said. "[Strength and conditioning coach Mike Woicik] has got a program that he's been doing for a very long time to get guys back from shoulder injuries, and I feel like I've been successful in that program and he's been impressed with my results, so that's good. But as far as the overall strength of it, I really do feel confident in that strength, and I feel like I'm back to a level that's where I would expect to be after a certain amount of training."
Frederick has a checkup soon with his neurologist for Guillain-Barré, but he believes that will be about potential long-term damage and not anything that will affect his ability to play. Frederick said he has not done any heavy punching work yet -- not because of Guillain-Barré preventing him from doing it, but because of the shoulder issues. He said he is still gaining strength in his explosive movements but said that is among the last things to return.
One of the more profound moments in his return, Frederick said, came late last season when he stubbed his toe, which let him know his feelings were returning.
"You kind of get used to it after a while, which is kind of weird, and so then all of a sudden, 'Oh yeah, I guess I can feel that now,'" he said. "I stubbed my toe and it hurt. It hurt a lot. So, at that point it was a good thing because there were times I'd kick the wall and I got nothing out of it."
Teammates appreciated Frederick staying around the team last season even as he had difficulty walking because of the atrophy in his hip and leg muscles. He became an assistant line coach of sorts, wearing a headset during games and helping Marc Colombo, who was promoted to head line coach near midseason, and his backup, Joe Looney.
More than a month before the offseason program began in April, Frederick was working out at The Star.
"Travis looks incredible and has been an inspiration with how he has handled his adversity," linebacker Sean Lee said. "His leadership and work ethic last year while helping other teammates was a big reason we were able to rally as a team. He looks as good as he has ever looked in the offseason workouts and we are lucky to have him back."
Frederick said the shoulder issue arose in the first two years of his career but the muscles stabilized the joint and prevented any dislocations. He had to wait on the surgery until a good portion of his strength returned from the effects of Guillain-Barré.
"To me, it was a really good sign that the doctors cleared me to have the surgery from the Guillain-Barré, and I was in good enough shape to do that," Frederick said. "And also from the recovery standpoint I was able to do all of the rehab, had enough muscle there, and really the rehab is about building that muscle back up and getting the stabilizing muscles back in shape. In the middle of Guillain-Barré, I don't think I'd be able to get the work done to be able to rehab the shoulder."
Frederick did not miss a game in his first five seasons. He was named to the Pro Bowl four times (2014-17) and was named an All-Pro twice. His goal is not just to return, but to return at a high level.
"Yeah, I don't think there's any reason to come back if you can't do it at that level," Frederick said. "To me, it's important to do everything that I can to help our team. It excites me and invigorates me every day to come into work and see the guys that we have on our team."