Frank Ragnow was mute for the better part of two weeks, ordered by doctors to talk as little as possible so he could rest his vocal cords after suffering a freak but gruesome-sounding injury — fractured cartilage in his throat.
Ragnow said the whole experience "sucked," though he did find one silver lining in an injury that kept him out of two games.
"My fiancée wasn’t too happy with me," he said. "Cause I’d use it to my advantage, like, 'Hey, can you do the dishes?' I can’t talk, I can’t answer and all that kind of stuff like that."
Ragnow spent his days in relative silence at the Detroit Lions' Allen Park practice facility trying to help his offensive line prepare for games against the Tennessee Titans and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and his nights at home watching fishing videos and dodging housework.
He returned to practice on a limited basis last Friday and is expected to play in Sunday's season finale against the Minnesota Vikings, though he said, "I’m still not supposed to be fully like a chatterbox."
"You definitely get a whole new perspective on just kind of taking everything in," Ragnow said. "But I guess it was good that if I ever did try to talk, my voice did not sound well so that very much urged me to stop talking, so that was the good part of it. But it’s definitely a unique perspective and it’s definitely something I don’t wish upon anyone, that’s for sure."
Ragnow said he was injured on a normal-looking play in the first quarter of the Lions' Dec. 13 loss to the Green Bay Packers, when he was coming off a block and took an awkward hit to the throat.
Immediately, he started "hurting pretty bad," and when he got to the sideline, he said his voice sounded like a dog's squeaky toy when the squeaker gets broken.
Ragnow was able to finish the game because his airway was clear, and it was not until later that he realized the full extent of his injury.
"When you see the vocal cords and see how I guess bruised up they are, it’s just something that was very alarming, for sure," he said.
Ragnow said he still is dealing with some soreness in his throat, but he practiced on a limited basis all week, does not need surgery after the season, is in line to return to action Sunday and should not have any speaking problems going forward.
"Fortunately, nothing with the airway was threatened, and like I said, the biggest concern was my vocal cords and really the only treatment I could do is not talk," Ragnow said. "So fortunately I got very lucky in that stance that I just had to not talk and my vocal cords are on track to make a full recovery."
As lucky as he is — when then-Indianapolis Colts defensive tackle Henry Anderson suffered a similar injury in 2018, he required season-ending surgery — Ragnow said it was difficult to not be able to communicate at times. He dealt with some guilt about not being able to play when he was otherwise healthy and the frustration of not being able to share his first career Pro Bowl selection with family.
When Lions coach Darrell Bevell FaceTimed to tell Ragnow he made the Pro Bowl last month, Ragnow forwarded the news to his family by group text, and as they celebrated, told everyone, "I'll talk to you when I can."
“That was one of the tougher experiences, too," he said. "Every young football player’s dream come true, something I’ve had a goal of mine from the day I started playing this game, a dream of mine and for that to come to fruition I mean is unreal. It sucked. I mean, I wanted to FaceTime my mom and I literally couldn’t talk to my mom, so that was the frustrating part, waiting to celebrate with my family cause they were all really excited. But it’s an unreal thing and I’m very thankful for the nomination."
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Lions' Frank Ragnow breaks silence after unusual throat injury