“I can’t stand up like a normal person; I can’t bend over.”
That was Columbus Blue Jackets forward Nathan Horton in November discussing a degenerative back injury that put him on the shelf indefinitely, possibly ending his career.
Enter: optimism. Horton joined the Blue Jackets for the morning skate on Thursday. While there is no timetable, or even an indication that Horton will resume his career at any point, there is an increased sense of hope that his career may not be over.
“There’s been some progress there,” Blue Jackets president of hockey operations John Davidson told The Columbus Dispatch.
“He is feeling a little better,” Davidson added. “I don’t know what that means in the big picture, but he’s better now than he was earlier this season. His whole attitude was different — better — than the last time we saw him.”
Horton is not presently speaking about his health, but any updates on his status will be filtered through his agent and the Blue Jackets.
“In my heart, I’ve always believed he’s going to play again,” Blue Jackets head coach Todd Richards said. “I still feel that way.”
Horton signed a seven-year, $37.1 million contract with the Blue Jackets in July 2013. The 29-year-old forward played just 36 games in 2014-15 before problems with his back led to a groin injury and shut him down for the remainder of the season.
It’s far too early to start planning a welcome back party for Horton, but the third overall pick from the 2003 draft has come a long way since news of his back condition first surfaced in November.