After the most devastating football injury of his life, Allen Robinson refused to engage in any prolonged self-pity. Only for a brief moment, as he was carted off the field at NRG Stadium three months ago, did the Jaguars’ receiver even allow a gloomy thought to creep in.

 

It’d be understandable. Just when A-Rob felt primed to repeat his 2015 breakthrough season, he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee on the Jaguars’ first possession of the year against the Houston Texans after making a routine third-down catch against cornerback Kevin Johnson. He had season-ending surgery the next day.

“There was a second there on that cart, [thinking] ‘Dang, I put in so much work in the offseason, coming back as the receiver I wanted to be, making the plays I wanted when they needed to be made,’ “ Robinson said Thursday at EverBank Field. “But right after that moment, I was like, ‘OK, let’s get this ball rolling.’ “

There’s been no reflection of what could have been since his injury. Even with the Jaguars finally ascending at 7-4 and sharing first place in the AFC South, all of Robinson’s focus during 12 weeks of rehabilitation is simply making the necessary gains to return to the field as quickly as possible.

No tears when the injury happened. No looking back since.

“I knew right then and there I had two decisions: One, to drop my head. Or two, figure this thing out and be able to bounce back and be ready to go,” Robinson said. “What makes me the player I am today is being able to go through things and bounce back. You can’t let things like this injury break you.”

If anybody in the Jaguars locker room knows about dealing with a torn ACL, it’s cornerback Aaron Colvin, who missed the first 10 games of his 2014 rookie season after sustaining the same injury at the Senior Bowl. He insists the worst part is over for A-Rob.

“It’s a dogfight, it’s really 75 percent mental, 25 percent physical,” said Colvin. “Just because there’s days and weeks where you don’t see any gain. You put in so much [rehab] work, and for there to be such minimum gain, especially at the beginning, it breaks some people. It breaks you if you’re not mentally strong.”

Robinson invests about 3-4 hours on weekdays toward restoring his left knee to normal, which he anticipates will happen by March or April, though he acknowledges the Jaguars might limit his participation in spring OTAs. He got off crutches in mid-October and now walks normally.

His rehab process, monitored by Jaguars athletic training intern Joel Noland, begins with a 10-minute bike warmup. It then proceeds to various range-of-motion exercises and working on the BFR machine, which restricts blood flow to Robinson’s left leg to make the workout more intense.

Though it’s a tedious grind, Robinson views rehab no differently than the workload he put himself through last offseason. Everything is about reaching his full potential. He spent eight weeks with Jaguars teammate Allen Hurns catching 150-300 passes a day at the EXOS training facility in Phoenix, Az., then another four weeks over the summer being trained by ex-NFL star wideout Randy Moss in Charlotte.

Robinson is the football equivalent of a gym rat, saying: “Anybody who really knows me knows I eat, sleep and breathe football. I have a vision for my career. It’s not going to be altered drastically by this injury. The process may be slowed down a bit, but I know it won’t plague what I want to get accomplished.”

Few players in Jaguars’ history have been as outspoken as A-Rob about their desire for greatness. He sees his 80-catch, 1,400-yard, 14-TD season in 2015 as a prelude of things to come, providing he can stay healthy. And the two quarterbacks who have thrown to him regularly for three-plus years see it, too.

“It was fun to watch [Robinson] him just get so much better over the offseason,” said Blake Bortles. “We went out to Arizona with him and Hurns, put a ton of work in, and came back in unbelievable shape. It was by far the best we had ever seen him look.”

That’s the part that frustrates the Jaguars who saw A-Rob’s progress in training camp and preseason. There was such anticipation for what the payoff would be for a 6-foot-3, 211-pound receiver with a 39-inch vertical jump. Then his first catch of the season proved to be his last.

“He improved so much, it was unreal the talent that was accumulating,” said backup quarterback Chad Henne.

It’s hard not to think how different the outcome might have been in tight losses to the New York Jets and Arizona Cardinals had Robinson been on the field, especially in those game-deciding moments. Instead, A-Rob spends his work days often separated from teammates (except in receiver meetings), pushing himself through the monotonous process of rehab.

Still, Colvin is certain Robinson will return from his injury a better receiver than the one who started on September 10 against the Texans.

“That’s a different cat,” Colvin said of A-Rob. “He’s bred for this. He has the mental capacity to take on an ACL [injury]. It couldn’t have happened to a better person because if you have the desire to come back just as much as you were at the beginning, then you’ll be just fine.”

Robinson will observe Sunday’s home game against the Indianapolis Colts from an EverBank Field suite, then, pending doctor approval, hopes to move down to the sideline for the last two home games.

But the fun part for the Jaguars will be seeing a healthy No. 15 out on the field again. A-Rob is a weapon they can’t replace.

Gene.frenette@jacksonville.com: (904) 359-4540