SANDY, Utah – It has no doubt been a difficult past few months for Real Salt Lake defender Chris Wingert. The 30-year-old outside back has been hobbled by a broken second metatarsal in his right foot since late November when he kicked the bottom of another player's cleats while training with St. John's University, his former school.
After the bone didn't heal properly, he was forced to undergo surgery, and he has been waiting to get back on the field ever since.
The good news now is that the wait is nearing an end, as he has been running the past couple weeks and began doing ball work in training this week.
"So far, it hasn't been too bad kicking the ball," he told reporters. "I just started hitting balls this week, but when I first came back the pounding of every step and pushing off was really painful and so I spoke to the doctor and he said the bone looked great and was healing properly so it was more just managing the pain. I think we're doing a good job of that. I'm doing all I can in terms of keeping the inflammation out and that's helping."
Wingert said he is glad that he can finally "see the light at the other side of the tunnel," and is happy he can actually work toward getting back instead of being stranded on the sidelines.
"You just feel helpless, you know." Wingert said. "You wish that you could help the guys. I mean, the guys have been doing great, but at the same time you want to be with them and you want to be on the field. You don’t feel like a part of the team that much just because you’re at home and you're not involved with everything.
"Just the fact that I'm getting back in to practice and hopefully I'll be traveling with the team soon is pretty exciting for me," he continued. "You feel like a little kid again that you just want to get out there and play and be a part of it."
Even when he does get on the pitch, Wingert knows that he will still have to be mindful of the foot, possibly until his playing career is over – maybe even longer.
"I still have a plate and five screws [in it]," said Wingert of the surgically repaired foot. "I don't think we are planning on taking it out. I think it is kinda up to me. If it feels good we'll just leave it in. If it doesn’t feel good, after the season we'll talk about other options."
When asked about a possible timetable for his return, Wingert didn't want to put too much pressure on himself to return on a specific date, but thinks sometime before the end of April is a realistic goal, bringing RSL ever closer to having a full complement of defenders available.