Carlton star Sam Walsh is still unsure when he will be able to resume contact training as he takes small steps forward in his rehabilitation after back surgery.
Walsh underwent a procedure in December that involved the removal of a bulging disc portion to relieve pressure on a nerve.
The gun midfielder was initially ruled out of the opening month of the 2023 season and the Blues haven't shifted from their plan to reassess his comeback timeline after that.
"By then we should have a really good look at where we're heading," Walsh said on Thursday.
"For me, I want to come back the best player I can and wherever that lands, I think at the moment we're going to have to reassess at that month mark."
Walsh has been able to build a "solid enough running base" in five weeks following a short rest period after surgery, and has worked on other parts of his body while strengthening his back.
"I feel like I'm really tracking in the right direction but there's obviously still a fair bit to go," Walsh said.
"It's just great to be back out there amongst the group at times and feeling like I'm getting something out of my days.
"I haven't looked too far ahead ... every session there's incremental gains involved but we haven't put a timeline on the contact stuff just as yet."
Walsh had back issues late last season and was sidelined for the heartbreaking loss to Collingwood in round 23, which cost Carlton a long-awaited finals berth.
The Blues are widely tipped to break a nine-year finals drought this season and Walsh - the club's 2021 best-and-fairest winner - hopes to be back to his best at the business end of the campaign.
"I definitely learnt the hard way last year about how cruel it can be missing games late in the year," Walsh said.
"You want to have a body of work that sets you up for playing a good, solid block of football that leads into good back-end footy, because that's when it really counts.
"Standing here now, I'd love to be saying that I'm fit and firing at that time of year."
Walsh was on hand on Thursday as Carlton announced a five-year extension of their long-standing partnership with major sponsor Hyundai.
The car manufacturer will double its support of the Blues' women's program as part of the new deal and will continue its presence on the front of the club's home guernseys.