I'm a little bit more settled in now that I've gotten past that first week of knowing I wasn't going to play football anymore. The whole shock has worn off a little bit. Things happen quickly in this league - just look at what happened.
One day I'm a starting fullback in the National Football League.
The next day I'm not playing football anymore.
Now that my mind has wrapped around it, I'm ready to move forward with the rest of my life.
The best way I can describe Tuesday on that first week is just very strange. You're in a routine for 15 years doing the same thing and all of a sudden it just stops. I was used to being in a preparation mode focusing on the next game we were going to play. Now, I'm waking up in the middle of the week, taking my kids to school making sure they have their lunch when we go out the door.
It's surreal, but very real. Even though you know that day is coming ... it's still a shock. The adjustment is as real as it gets. For me, just being around the team helping out Stump (Mitchell) with the running backs - there's still an adjustment for that - at least I'm still around football. It's a reminder that some day when I'm completely away from football - when I'm not affiliated in any way as a player -that will be another adjustment.
But that's all right. I'm right mentally with that and at peace with my decision.
I appreciate the way it has worked out. I'd rather it be all of a sudden now than April or May next year. I'm just trying to maintain perspective. It was a no-brainer. I don't have any regrets. There is no gray area here. I'm very, very lucky that I wasn't hurt worse. Players get paralyzed when the spinal cord is involved and I got a warning when I came off the field in Pittsburgh. I'm lucky to be talking about it right now, let alone leading a completely functional life, and I'm even more grateful now when I think about the fact that something much worse was very close to happening.
I think about the game some. I look back at it all ... wondering: "Were there other warning signs?" And there weren't. It just happened. I've just got to face it for what it is, be grateful it wasn't worse. The funny thing is, I feel great. People see me and smile, and then say,"Boy, you look great!" And I always respond, "Thanks, I feel great." I can run. I can do everything I could do before. I just can't have any collisions with my head. If it wasn't for my neck, I'd still be playing period. And who knows how long I'd be able to play?
The most important part is the head and neck area is not something you mess around with at any level.
There are some parameters to what I do. It isn't fair to the organization or me to just float around without any concrete role. I talked to coach (Mike) Holmgren and it's a little bit clearer that I'm going to help Stump. I know what kind of schedule I'm on. Now I can communicate with the running backs, and they know I'm around the team, but I'm not just here to be an overgrown cheerleader to pat guys on the back. I actually have a role assisting Stump. It's not like he needs my help. I'm just another pair of eyes.
More than anything else, I don't want to be a distraction or get in the way of preparation for every week. One thing hasn't changed is I just want to do whatever I can to help the team win.