FORT WORTH, Texas - The last time anyone saw Austin Meier he could barely hobble and limp his way out of the Thomas & Mack Center in pair of house slippers.
He had been bruised, battered, beaten and was in need of a two-month break in competition.
It's been nearly three weeks, and while the 25-year-old is beginning to feel better, he's far from being 100 percent healthy.
In an interview earlier this week, Meier said he's "still pretty sore in some areas."
He still has some issues with his pulled groin, which is his main concern, and the outside of his right ankle is numb. Meier also said that Dr. Tandy Freeman is referring him to a hip specialist, but that whatever trouble he's having with his hip is not to the point that it's interfering with his ability to make the whistle.
"At the end of the day, there's not stuff you can do for a groin like you can an arm or an ankle," said Meier, who despite his injuries is looking forward to the start of the 2013 Built Ford Tough Series season.
"(I'm) ready to start getting back on them and making some of that big money."
As for his hip, he said, "It's kind of one those deals you go on with it and just don't worry about it. One of these days, if it just gets to the point where it bothers me enough, where I say, 'Man, I need to have this fixed,' then I'll go get it looked at."
Known as one of the toughest riders competing in what is arguably the toughest sport, Meier doesn't seem all that concerned about how he'll feel in January when it's time head to New York for the Monster Energy Invitational at Madison Square Garden.
In fact, he's likely to get started at a Touring Pro Division event in Kearney, Neb., on Dec. 15, and again in Fort Worth, Texas, Dec. 28-29.
However, if his groin keeps him out of competition until Jan. 4, he said, "There'll be plenty of other opportunities."
Like many of his fellow riders, with the new point system in place, he's especially anxious to get an early start on next season, now that 25 percent of the points earned at TPD events will count toward the world standings. Riders will qualify for the World Finals based on points as opposed to money earned.
"If I'm not healthy, I'm not going to go and make it worse," said Meier, who finished fifth in the world standings. It's the fourth season in a row he's finished sixth or better.
He's already eying up a busy first few weeks in January.
In addition to the first two BFTS events - New York and Chicago - he'll head to Denver for a three-day TPD event, and a one-day TPD event in Pueblo, Colo., before heading to Winston-Salem, N.C., for the third BFTS event.
There's a stretch from Chicago through Winston-Salem in which he could wind up getting on as many as 11 bulls or more.
In the meantime, Meier, an avid outdoorsman, has been hunting.
In fact, he tagged five animals in three states in a matter of seven days, and is heading to West Texas today for yet another hunt.
"I was out west mule deer hunting, which is a lot of walking,"
said Meier, who joked, "it was my western rehab."
Austin Meier hunting last week.
Meier said that he's noticed that continuous "easy walking" throughout the day makes his injured ankle feel better than if he relaxes on the couch. He explained the less he moves around, the tighter it gets, and more sore it feels at the end of the day.
He later explained that over the years, he's used his hunting experiences as a way to stay in shape.
While he's out, he carries a heavy pack on his shoulders, which replicates weight training. The long hikes help with his cardio training.
"I use my hunting to benefit me in my riding, too," said Meier, who after hunting around his Oklahoma house spent last week hunting in North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana.
His trip to West Texas is being chronicled for the PBR Outdoors series.
"Shoot, I'm just hunting and taking care of cows," he said. "Ready to start getting back on them and making some of that big money."
Follow Keith Ryan Cartwright on Twitter @PBR_KRC.
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