The physical part of any injury is half the battle of returning to the field. The mental part is arguably just as big of a hill as the physical.
All athletes have the same mentality. Get back to fully active quicker than the suggested medical timeline.
Those who can conquer the mental side of injuries can see the brighter side of things. And that's what Darnell Mooney did this offseason recovering from ankle surgery.
Stay in the game with the latest updates on your beloved Chicago sports teams! Sign up here for our All Access Daily newsletter.
"The mental part --- there were some stages that were tough," Mooney said Wednesday. "I took it day by day, didn't look ahead. Took it slow. I enjoyed the process. There are some things you learn when you're isolated and by yourself.
"You learn things about yourself."
What did Mooney learn about himself?
"I gotta calm down a lot," Mooney said. "I'm a calm person but in my head, but I talk to myself a lot. I'm too hard on myself, I don't have to be so hard on myself. Just go, enjoy life, and be a good person and be the happy person I am."
Mooney broke his ankle during the Bears' Week 11 game in New York against the Jets. Including that game, he missed the final six of the season, leaving the Bears without their No. 1 receiver.
This offseason, he knocked out two birds with one stone, getting the required surgery from breaking his ankle and tightrope surgery he preemptively planned to undergo before breaking his ankle. He found the break to his left ankle as an odd blessing to the situation, already needing surgery on that particular ankle.
It would've been easy for Mooney to get down on himself.
After a 2021 season where he recorded over 1,000 receiving yards, he failed to reach half of that mark in the 11 games he played in 2022. On top of that, the Bears finished with the worst record in the NFL (3-14) and the 23rd-ranked offense in the league.
But, as he said, Mooney didn't let himself crawl into those dark places; though, sometimes those moments arose. He had the help of Eddie Jackson and Jack Sanborn, both of whom endured season-ending injuries towards the end of the year, to motivate him, while he motivated them in return.
But isolated on his own for most of his rehab, he emphasized the positives he gained from learning about himself.
"It was tough, for sure, being away. But, like I said, I learned a lot of things from being away," Mooney said. "I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the journey. I'm happy that I went through the journey of it. I learned a lot of things.
"I was happy I was able to just sit down and see things from a different perspective."