CALGARY - While his veteran Flames teammates reported to training camp Friday for fitness testing, Daymond Langkow's only requirement was posing for photos.
Getting him to smile wouldn't have been an easy task.
The gritty centre still hasn't received clearance for contact after fracturing a vertebrae at the base of his neck late last season, and his return to the lineup doesn't look like it's going to come anytime soon.
"This is kind of frustrating," Langkow said.
"It's tough. This is the first time I haven't been able to start training camp. It's different. It's a different feeling."
Not a good feeling, especially when you consider how positive he was just a couple of weeks ago as he began skating with teammates after being cleared for light workouts.
"It was hard to know how I was gonna be feeling. I started skating a couple of weeks ago and felt pretty good," Langkow said when asked what his hopes were heading into camp. "But it's just the contact issue really right now. Everything's got to be 100% before I can take any contact."
Langkow will meet with doctors weekly if not daily throughout training camp and likely into the regular-season.
Earlier this summer, Flames GM Darryl Sutter suggested the 33-year-old was only at about 60% health, but progression over the last month was strong enough for Langkow to have a legitimate hope of competing early this season after the March 21 incident that saw him get hit with a puck in the back of the neck.
It was friendly fire from the stick of defenceman Ian White as Langkow was falling toward the ice that fractured the vertebrae almost six months ago in St. Paul, Minn.
"It's just going to take time, so you just have to stay patient and just work at it," Langkow said, admitting he might have overestimated his health while skating with teammates recently.
"It's hard to say. A couple of weeks ago I think I said I was close to 100%, but it probably wasn't ... I'm not as close as I thought."
His expression as he discussed the uncertainty surrounding his health said as much as he did.
Frustration, for sure.
Maybe even a little bit of fear.
Neck injuries can end careers. If nothing else, this one has derailed his start to the season.
Despite joining his teammates for the informal skates late this summer, he's going back to solo sessions.
"Right now I'm gonna be skating on my own. I just can't take contact right now," Langkow said.
"They just want me to stay away from contact, even just skating with the guys in case something happens where I run into somebody or something like that. Right now I just want to be cautious and be careful.
"I'm just going to try and be in the best shape as possible for when the time comes I get the green light."