ESSENDON skipper Dyson Heppell isn't expected to be back in full training until at least July as the recovery from his latest round of foot surgery takes longer than planned.
As the Bombers await a return to play date like the rest of the competition, doubt remains over Heppell's ability to be fit for round two should it come before August.
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Speaking in March, Heppell had originally planned to play inside the first month of the season after having screws removed from his foot due to ongoing pain in February.
However, on the eve of what would have been round five, the Bombers captain revealed he had still not resumed running.
The 27-year-old continues to maintain fitness through swimming, yoga and bike riding and is set to begin a running block in early June.
"The foot's actually coming along quite well," Heppell told the Bombers' website on Friday.
"We've still had access to one of our physios a couple of times a week and put in a really good program to get my foot in cherry ripe nick.
"Hopefully (I'll) start to build into some running loads over the next couple of weeks, then it'd be a good 6-8 week build-up and hopefully by then we'll be back into some games and see if I can fire up for round two."
Heppell's two rounds of foot surgery were part of a long list of Bombers' pre-season injury setbacks that included Orazio Fantasia, Michael Hurley, Cale Hooker and Tom Bellchambers.
Still adjusting to the new game plan rolled out in their narrow round one win over Fremantle, the Bombers are continuing to learn during the shutdown.
"We're starting to see a bit of vision coming in from the club so keeping up to scratch with the game plan and talking about that with each other," Heppell said.
The Bombers are hoping Joe Daniher will be available whenever round two comes.