BRISBANE defender Darcy Gardiner is playing it cautious but is optimistic of overcoming a knee injury to be fit for the season start.
Gardiner suffered a PCL injury to his right knee at a training session in Hobart last month and is still sporting a heavy brace.
The Lions have put no definite timeframe on his return, instead allowing the 23-year-old to tick off one milestone at a time.
"Hopefully over the next week I might start running and then put it back on to be safe," Gardiner said.
"It just depends how strong it feels.
"I've had a few injuries before so I understand it and how they work, be patient with it, let thing heal up, there's no point rushing back for one week and doing something to it again.
"I've got to take my time, heal up and be ready to go when the team needs me."
Gardiner dislocated his shoulder against Collingwood in round 21 and had off-season shoulder surgery.
He has taken part in all the pre-season running and was held out of contact work until December, but said he was confident with his preparation.
Gardiner has become an integral part of Brisbane's defence, finishing fifth in the best and fairest and performing outstanding shutdown roles on Lance Franklin and Jeremy Cameron.
He is the ideal hybrid defender that can take stronger opponents or the slightly quicker, more versatile ones.
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"I'm doing everything I can to be ready for round one," he said.
"These things can sometimes take longer, sometimes they can be faster, we'll just see how it goes when I start running and how comfortable I feel.
"I'm confident I've done enough work in the legs and the shoulder is good to go."