Former Notre Dame player Kapron Lewis-Moore on road to recovery

Bob Wieneke
South Bend Tribune

Perhaps the most startling element of the injury that ended Kapron Lewis-Moore’s 2014 season came in how it occurred.

No warning sign. No contact. No previous problem. But the result of the Achilles injury meant one thing – Lewis-Moore, a former Notre Dame defensive lineman, would spend a second consecutive season without playing a meaningful down of football.

“I was just playing football and the next thing I know it felt like somebody kicked me in the back of my leg really hard, and once I felt it snap I kind of knew right away it was one of those things,” said Lewis-Moore, who played at ND from 2009-12. “It hurt a lot but it was more frustration, having a good camp, you’re doing pretty well, you’re trying as hard as possible to fight for a roster spot, and this happens.”

Lewis-Moore, a sixth-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens in the 2013 draft, suffered a serious knee injury in the BCS National Championship Game following the 2012 season. That injury placed him on the Reserve/Non-Football Injury list, with the hope that he would recover and contribute in 2014.

That’s exactly what appeared to be happening as Lewis-Moore earned snaps with the starters during the offseason and camp, and at the very least he was ticketed for a prominent backup role. Then, during a combined practice with the San Francisco 49ers in August, Lewis-Moore suffered a second severe injury in 19 months.

There were no players around that hit him to cause the injury, nor were there any signs that his Achilles was in danger of tearing. Just like that, Lewis-Moore was down.

“Actually it hurt a lot. It’s kind of like somebody kicked you in the back of the leg, like in the back of the ankle really hard,” he said. “And then you just kind of hear it and you can feel it kind of snap and it rolls into your calf muscle. It’s kind of like a rope when that tension breaks.”

What the 6-foot-4, 310-pound Lewis-Moore has not allowed the injury to do is break his spirit. A 45-minute surgery fixed the tear, and just last Friday he shed the protective boot he’d worn for 11 weeks. He rehabs six days a week, still works on upper-body strength and goes to Charlotte, N.C., in a few weeks to have the injury looked at. The goal is to be back doing football drills in January or February.

Yes, Lewis-Moore admitted, dealing with a second consecutive season not playing has been hard. Twenty-seven preseason snaps over the last two years are all he has played since going down in the second half of the BCS National Championship Game, but if he’s looking for inspiration, all he has to do is peer toward Boston.

It’s there that former teammates Jonas Gray and Darius Fleming have overcome injury obstacles of their own. Since joining the NFL, Fleming has twice suffered ACL injuries, but is now on the Patriots’ practice squad. Gray, who suffered a knee injury late in his senior season at Notre Dame, spent 2013 on the Ravens’ practice squad before signing with the Patriots in January. He was recently activated and ran for 86 yards in Sunday's win over Chicago.

Seeing the two overcome their injuries has helped Lewis-Moore cope.

“It helps ease my negativity because it’s so hard, you still have those negative thoughts in your mind,” Lewis-Moore said, “but I try my best to block those things out.”

One thing he refuses to block out is his alma mater. Lewis-Moore will be in Landover, Md.. Saturday night when the Irish play Navy. Told of Irish coach Brian Kelly’s comments this week that his defenders must block out Navy’s cut blocking and just play football, Lewis-Moore concurred. He recalled when he played at ND, even when it wasn’t Navy week, the coaches would prepare the defensive linemen for the tactic.

“That’s what you’ve got to do,” Lewis-Moore said. “You go to Notre Dame, you know you’re going to play Navy every year. It’s one of those storied rivalries. It’s nothing new. It’s just something you’ve got to do. You’ve got to go out there and play some ball.”

That said, Lewis-Moore did say that Navy’s approach is something he was aware of, and it affected how he played.

“Yeah, it definitely does because when Navy comes after you, it’s almost an unorthodox way of playing football,” Lewis-Moore said. “Everybody knows that’s how Navy plays, so you have to really prepare the right way to play that style of blocking.”

Big-picture, Lewis-Moore continues to prepare for next season.

“You’ve just got to trust the process and believe – I believe I can be a solid player in the NFL,” he said. “I’m not going to stop until I achieve my dreams. I still haven’t really felt like I’ve achieved my dreams yet.”

Former Notre Dame defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore (89) sat out the 2013 season because of a knee injury suffered when he played at Notre Dame. Lewis-Moore, now with the Baltimore Ravens, suffered an Achilles injury in August and missed this season as well. (SBT File Photo/JAMES BROSHER)