Former Mizzou DE Shane Ray took a huge step forward as a second-year player for the Denver Broncos last season.

The team’s 2015 first-round pick recorded eight sacks and developed into a perfect complement to star pass rusher Von Miller.

However, as he began preparations for what he hopes will be a huge third season, Ray tore a ligament in his hand and will now be out for the start of the regular season.

Ray isn’t losing hope, though, as he told that he expects to be back early in the season and everything is on track in terms of his recovery:

“Everything’s healing fine,” Ray said. “The doctor says my hand’s healing well. My stitches, when they came out, my scars looked good. So I’m just excited, man. This process — I look at it as they gave me four extra weeks to train, so I’m just going to keep looking at it like that, keep working and get ready for the season.”

Having the stitches out allows Ray to return to the gym, which he says is an important step toward getting ready for game action:

“That’s a great step for me to be able to actually work out and sweat and do something else,” Ray said. “So I’m getting on my cardio, trying to find ways to get in the weight room so I can lift. So it’s all coming together. Like I said, it’s unfortunate, but when I do come back, I’ll be more than prepared.”

When Ray returns to action, the Broncos will have one of the best pass-rushing duos in the NFL. However, Miller will have to hold down the fort until the former Mizzou star is healthy enough to return.