One happy trail to recovery

Posted Nov 3, 2010

Chester Pitts has endured a lot in the past 14 months, which only makes preparing this week to start his first game for the Seahawks all the sweeter.

Another day, another story, another position for Chester Pitts.

The Seahawks’ plan on Tuesday, with Ben Hamilton being placed on injured reserve after getting a serious concussion in Sunday’s loss to the Raiders in Oakland, was to have Pitts step in at left guard. But Wednesday, when the team began preparing for this week’s game against the New York Giants at Qwest Field, Pitts was at left tackle.

Whether Pitts is at guard or tackle in what will be his first start for the Seahawks – and his first start since Week 2 last season when he was playing for the Houston Texans – depends on the health of first-round draft choice Russell Okung and backup tackle Tyler Polumbus.

And isn’t that ironic, with Pitts’ status depending on the readiness of others.

Since tearing up his right knee last September, it has been Pitts’ health and readiness that have been in question – especially since the Seahawks signed him on July 29.

“The first play didn’t look very good,” Pitts said after practice, punctuating that statement with – what else – his trademark smile. “But kind of as I got back into the game and playing football, I kind of remembered what it was like to be a football player again and just kept trying to build on it.”

Pitts got those first snaps as a Seahawk in last week’s loss to the Raiders, after Hamilton went out. But when Polumbus also was injured (sprained knee), Pitts slid out to tackle. The last time played tackle? It was in 2005, the final 12 games.

“So when I went out there for the Raiders game, that was the first time in a long time,” Pitts said. “For a lot of things.”

“Arduous” is the word that coach Pete Carroll has used to describe Pitts’ rehab from the knee surgery that snapped his streak of 114 consecutive starts with the Texans. But even that doesn’t convey exactly what Pitts has been through the past 14 months.

“I went 62 days without being able to use my leg. At all,” Pitts said. “I mean literally. My foot didn’t touch the ground. For that long, I was crutches. So it swiveled up and atrophied like, I mean I could grab my femur. That’s how moushy it was in there.”

That will happen when your tear up your knee the way Pitts did.

“I did a lot, man,” Pitts said, flipping through a list that included tearing his medical collateral ligament off the bone; having the bottom of his femur and the top of his tibia plateau – “Those bones, basically when my knee rolled, those edges crushed each other, so they kind of exploded,” he explained; tearing his meniscus in half; getting a rim fracture of the tibial plateau; and, of course, the microfracture surgery that was part of the repair.

“It was doozy,” he said. “What it was, I was stealing. I was cheating too long. I’d gone too long without missing a game. So they were like, ‘We’re going to get it back right now.’ ”

Then came the rehab, and trying to comprehend just what microfracture was and what it entailed – and how many athletes have been able to come back from it.

“You would not believe how many times I’ve Googled the word ‘mircofracture,’ ” he said, laughing and drawing laughs from the reporters gathered around him. “Or Binged the word ‘microfracture.’ Or ‘successful microfracture surgery.’ And, ‘how do you recover?’

“I’ve read about it all.”

Not to mention lived through it all.

And through it all, Pitts was able to smile. He couldn’t practice during training camp. He didn’t play during the preseason. He didn’t play in the Seahawks’ first six games. But you never would have known from the way he approached – no, attacked – each day. With that infectious smile, and an outlook to match.

“I was raised to always, I’m big on putting my family first,” Pitts said. “Everything I’ve put myself through, I know it’s for a greater cause. The way I look at it, the more I put myself through and the longer I play ball, the more opportunities I can create and set up for my kids and my family.

“Only one Pitts is going to have to play football. If my son wants to play, I’ll let him play when he’s older. But he’s going to have every opportunity to live a wonderful, successful life without having to hit anybody.”

The elder Pitts is just happy he’s still able to play the game and hit somebody. Again. Finally.

“I had 10 doctors tell me I’d never play again,” he said, “and one doctor believed I could come back.”

Make that one doctor, and one very determined player.