Jaeger O'Meara is in no rush to return for round one and is prepared to take an extra "month or two" if needed to get his horrific knee injury right.
O'Meara missed the entire 2015 season with a ruptured patella tendon following a freak accident in a NEAFL practice match 10 months ago.
The Gold Coast midfielder has been running in straight lines for the past six to eight weeks, but says he will not be rushed into playing games.
"I don't want to take any risks," O'Meara said.
"It'll be the 12-month mark in round one, but if I need an extra couple of weeks, or if I need an extra month or two, I'm willing to take that to lengthen my career.
"It's not so much all about playing round one, everyone thinks round one is the grand final at the moment.
"I'm more focused on playing long term this season and also long term for my career."
O'Meara said the scariest thing about his injury was the lack of information surrounding it.
READ: Swallow and O'Meara progressing well
Former Adelaide and Richmond forward Chris Knights is the only AFL player to have suffered the same fate, while NFL star Victor Cruz is another.
O'Meara said it was difficult being patient, but after some initial doubts, he was now totally confident in a return to his blistering best.
He said guarding against other injuries had been a big part of his rehab.
"I also had a hamstring graft to reinforce the tendon, so I'm at high risk of doing that, but I've been doing everything I can and been going over and above to make sure I don't get those soft tissue injuries," he said.
"I know it's not going to be smooth sailing … but I'm really keen to get back to playing AFL footy."
O'Meara, out of contract at season's end, reiterated his desire to play consistent footy before addressing speculation about his playing future.
READ: O'Meara "not interested" in other clubs
He said the appointment of new high performance boss Justin Cordy and his staff had been a major improvement from last season.
"It's given me a breath of fresh air," he said.
"I was really frustrated last year, obviously I had the injury, and I wasn't happy with how things were placed in terms of high performance and also our off-field issues.
"I voiced my opinion to our general manager and CEO and those types of guys. Thankfully enough things have got a lot better, I'm really happy with Justin Cordy and our head of rehab Alex Rigby and my physio Lindsay Bull.
"My focus is purely on getting back to playing AFL footy, it's something I'm really hungry to do."