ESSENDON will continue to take a cautious approach with Nick Kommer in his recovery from a knee injury, with no timeframe slated for the small forward to return to full training.
After an impressive debut season in 2013, Kommer didn't play a game this year as he dealt with persistent patella tendinitis, which was eventually operated on.
After many frustrations throughout the season, Kommer started running in recent weeks and the club is buoyant about his fitness heading into the Christmas break.
"It's been a long road for Nick, but in the last fortnight he's made real progress in that he's now running, which is significant progress for him," Neil Craig, the club's general manager of performance, told AFL.com.au.
"It means now that we can start to get some better conditioning into him because he's missed a lot of footy and a lot of training.
"He's still got a way to go but at least everything is in a positive direction at the moment, and having been out for so long, it's good for him to be able to get out there and sweat and push himself and start to test himself at training."
Although Craig was reluctant to pinpoint when Kommer was expected to return to full training, he felt the club had found the answer to the problem and that it was vital the tenacious and hard-tackling crumber was not rushed.
"We'll tend to err on the conservative side with Nick to make sure that, now that we've got him this far, we can get him right to the line," Craig said.
"With the way he finished 2013, he's a pretty exciting and important player for us so we'll give him every opportunity to get himself in good shape."
The patella tendon injury proved difficult for the Bombers' medical team to treat last season, and they attempted several remedies before he underwent surgery in May.
It was a loss for the Bombers, after Kommer established himself in Essendon's forward line in his debut season of 2013, when he played 19 games and kicked 10 goals.
Craig said it was still possible Kommer would be available for Essendon's season-opening clash against the Sydney Swans on April 4.
"If his rate of improvement continues at the way it's going at the moment, [the start of the season] is realistic. But we're not going to get hung up about round one," he said.
"There's nothing magical about round one. There's no magical number for us in terms of when he's going to be ready."
In other injury news from the Bombers, 22-year-old Alex Browne is on track to be available for the NAB Challenge series, having undergone a knee reconstruction in February.
But luckless defender Tayte Pears may need to wait longer following Achilles surgery before the end of last season.
Pears, who has had a horror injury run in the past five seasons and didn't manage to play a senior game in 2014, is expected to be more involved in training by the middle of January.
Craig said the 24-year-old was keeping upbeat despite his injury battles.
"He's been really slow. Hopefully he'll start to really increase his workload after the Christmas break," Craig said.
"These situations really test players' resilience. You've got to continue to help them paint a vision for where they want to go, and what it looks like for them.
"Any little progress we celebrate and reward. Our responsibility is to keep him as positive as we can and to his credit, he's stayed in that mode for the majority of time."
Nick Kommer was a revelation in 2013. Picture: AFL Media