RAIDERS skipper Terry Campese hopes to meet a 10-week deadline and be fit for the start of the NRL season, but says he's not putting extra pressure on himself to rush his third comeback from major injury in as many years.
Canberra coach David Furner has indicated the club will take a conservative approach with Campese, predicting the 28-year-old won't be available until at least round four of next season.
Campese, who has played just eight games in the past two seasons, is also cautious about declaring a return date. But on the cusp of the new year, the representative five-eighth admitted he hadn't given up on overcoming his second knee reconstruction and leading the Raiders out for the season-opener against Penrith on March 10.
''If everything goes to plan from here on in, there's no setbacks at all, there's no reason why I can't [play the season-opener],'' Campese said. ''It's just … I don't want to put pressure on myself [by] saying 'I'll be definitely back' - then I'll be disappointed if I don't play.
''It's just playing whenever it's 100 per cent. I don't want to give myself a round or a date to come back because it puts pressure on myself. I'll just take it as it comes.''
Campese has endured a horror stretch with injuries since rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament in the 2010 finals against Wests Tigers. He tore his groin eight minutes into his comeback game in 2011, then his 2012 season ended with another knee injury in April.
Although Campese will retain the club's captaincy, the former NSW and Australian representative does not expect a free ride back into the NRL squad.
The Raiders charged into the finals without him last year, Sam Williams and Josh McCrone finally gelling and forming an effective halves combination.
But Campese said he wanted to return to football as soon as his body was ready, even if that meant playing off the bench or in the NSW Cup with Canberra's feeder team, Mounties.
''I'd just prefer to jump straight back in whenever I'm 100 per cent,'' Campese said. ''I'm not sure if I'll be playing a few reserve grade games or how it will work out; that's up to the coaching staff and what they see is best for the team. I'm happy to do whatever is best for the squad. No one player is bigger than the team.
''I'm not even sure what position is in mind. With Sammy and Joshy, the way they finished off last year, they've got a good combination going. So I don't know if it's a position where I might be playing off the bench for the first few games.''
Before joining Canberra as an assistant coach, former Australian halfback Brett Kimmorley had publicly urged the Raiders to extend the contract of Williams and consider shifting Campese to the back row.
Yet Campese has all but dismissed that switch, saying previous attempts to move had failed.