“Three to six weeks. Probable. He is going to try and go.”
I never set out to have a career in the NFL.
Growing up outside St. Louis, I didn’t even have a team to root for most of my childhood. I played high school football, not well, but good enough to get one scholarship offer – an academic walk on as a kicker. I politely declined. I was a soccer and baseball player, but playing football was what you were supposed to do where I came from, so I did it.
I’m not big now and I certainly wasn’t then, so I got pushed around a lot by older, bigger players. I dislocated my shoulder twice, and luckily it reduced both times on the field on its own.
I declined surgery and instead decided that I wanted to go the rehab route. I didn’t know anything about the people taking care of me. Looking back now, I know they were not very specialized or particularly good at their job. I suppose this is how I first garnered my desire to be better than them, and so I set out to do just that.
65 preseason, 191 regular-season, 12 post-season and two Pro Bowl games later, and here I am.
I only missed one game in 12 years – for my wedding. Went to work the day of and day after surgery on my hand. Missed countless birthdays, anniversaries, events of my own and others. Spent holidays in hotel rooms by myself. I’ve spent more time with players than I did with my family. This is the life of an NFL athletic trainer, and I wouldn’t have traded those experiences for anything. It takes a dedication that few know and less can understand. Those who have done it longer than I deserve far more credit than they receive.
I am deeply indebted to so many, both in and out of the NFL. Athletic Trainers, coaches, physical therapists, equipment managers, football operations personnel...the list is endless. Without these individuals, I would not be who I am today.
When I decided to remove myself from that lifestyle, it was due to a multitude of reasons that cannot possibly be listed here. I’m not afraid to say I was good at my job, really good. But I wanted more time to have for education and promotion of the industry.
I believe that the training room setting is unique and cannot be found anywhere else. For one reason or another, I miss it every day. When I think about it, it’s mostly the relationships. I also believe that in the sports industry, there is a lack of understanding of what it takes to do what I did for so long. Herein lies my purpose going forward.
Anyone can predict. Anyone can use norms of timelines. I made a point of not doing so when returning athletes to the field. I always lived by, “You’re ready when you are ready,” and I carry that on to my clients and athletes today. It takes less than a minute on Google to find the average return-to-play time for any given injury, but there is no talent or skill in that.
What is unique is the how and the why.
Very few understand or can relate to what needs to happen on a weekly basis to take an athlete at an elite level and return them to competition. I do. A trusted friend in the industry once told me this: “Worry about the process and the product will take care of itself.”
I am here to talk about the process that so few know about.
I am wrong frequently, just ask my wife and kids. I always believed that I could return someone to competition before I was told they would be able to. Most of the time I did, and sometimes I didn’t. However, as I watch professional sporting events, football and others, I can tell you with a high degree of accuracy what is going on medically when an injury occurs.
But the simple truth as you read my future work here is this: unless you are currently on the sideline or field in the action, anything you say is just an educated guess. I caution others constantly not to make assumptions about what is occurring in live action because there are no less than 100 things occurring at any given moment on the sideline or court.
Some realize this, some just like to make themselves sound intelligent. What I can speak to is what occurs in the process. The process is what gets people back to gameday. The process is undefeated.
Going forward, I wish to describe the profession and how it pertains to the fan’s interest of the sport we all love. The goal is to open people’s eyes a bit, perhaps even get others interested in joining the society of sports medicine professionals.
Know this: I am going to be right and I am going to be wrong. That’s life. However, I will always be correct about the process, and I am cool with that.
In summary, that player you have questions about?
He will be out three to six weeks, he will be probable at some point, and he will try and go......maybe.