YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Weak Need Not Apply

Injured player can be sure there will be a backup trying to take his job or opponent trying to exploit him.

January 25, 2003|SAM FARMER

In the NFL, there's no such thing as pity.

Sympathy in this league comes only in times of tragedy. It doesn't come when you sit there and can't move your legs on the training-room table. The sympathy comes only in the worst situations. Other than that it's, hey, we've got to move forward.

You see a guy get hurt in practice, blow his knee out and he's gone for the year, they don't stop practice. They move practice 20 yards away so the dude won't get stepped on for the next play. Just keep moving, man. The first time I saw that I couldn't believe it. But then again, what do you expect to happen? You can't expect a whole practice to be shut down.

You have a teammate, you have a brother, you have a friend you're going to fight for -- just like in the Army, when one of the soldiers gets shot, they're not going to stop the war. They try to move it on.

That's pretty tough, even if it's you and you're lying on the ground. Watch during the game. If someone gets hurt, they have a TV timeout, they go to a couple of Budweiser commercials, they come back and the guy's swept up. Keep the game going.

Once, when I was a freshman at Columbia, I was selling programs in our stadium during a varsity game. Freshmen weren't allowed to play varsity. I remember being in the middle of the stadium and taking a look at the game for a minute. I saw this guy just get creamed on a kickoff. It was one of our players.

Both teams started to return to the sidelines, and this guy started to walk to the opponent's side. I'm thinking, 'Oh, man, he's done, something's wrong with him.' His teammates started to grab him and brought him back to the huddle. He was a defensive player, but he walked right over to the offensive side. So the referees started to escort him off the field. I had walked to the bottom of the stadium just so I could hear what he was talking about, what they were saying was wrong with him.

The dude kept looking around saying, "I want some chocolate cake." That's the only thing they could get out of him.

They'd ask him: "What's two plus two?"

"I want some chocolate cake."

"What's your mom's name?"

"I want some chocolate cake!"

It was kind of scary at first, but then you could tell by the reaction of the training staff that he had only a concussion, so it became pretty funny.

This is a violent game. I remember one time back East, someone got socked in the chest and the kid died. They were playing the chest game. They taught us in health class not to punch someone in the chest. Not because you will kill them, but because you'll rupture blood vessels and you really damage cells. Just from one hit of a fist to the chest. So just imagine when we hit somebody what's happening. Imagine what it looks like under a microscope. Just getting socked once in the chest is nothing compared to that.

At the beginning of the week, I told you I may die sooner than my peers. But there are lots of little discomforts in this game. For instance, I don't like my hands being squeezed. A lot of times when I go out I'll give you the fist. Someone will say, "Hey, how you doing?" I try to put my fist out there hoping you'll just want to touch fists. Cool. But sometimes you have to shake hands, and I really try to give a soft hand.

I think a lot of businessmen out there might think I'm a little weaker than I look. I'm not trying to shake your hand to show that I'm strong, or "How are you doing, sir?" None of that. Because my hands are on fire. I have two fingers that are dislocated and three bad ones. I have two good ones on my right hand and three on my left hand.

There's really no treatment for hand problems. The circulation in your hands is so poor that the blood isn't able to replenish and renew the area quickly. So when you have something wrong with your hands, it takes a lot longer to heal.

Sometimes, even people who know me forget about how sore my hands are. My 10-year-old niece, Charne, gets so excited to see me after a game. She just saw me about five hours earlier, but she still gets pumped up and wants a hug. After we beat New England, she shook my hand. She said, "Hey, uncle!" And I said, "Hey!" and had my hand down. She took my hand and she shook it. It brought me to my knees. "Oh, no! Don't do that!"

My response was a little more severe than I would have liked for my family to see. It was definitely pain.

So much of football is about pain tolerance. We're all out there to fight for our jobs. When we're playing a game, as much as you're a team player, you're also trying to keep your position and trying to do well at it. So there's no time to say, "Man, my arm hurts. I need a couple plays off. Put my backup in the game and I'll be right back." Sometimes you see that happen and the backup doesn't want to give it back. Whether it's a Marc Bulger or a Kurt Warner or a Trent Green. Or a Tommy Maddox.

Los Angeles Times Articles