|11-05-2007, 03:30 AM||#1|
Join Date: Apr 2006
Lynch worth more off the field
By Mark Kiszla
The Denver Post
DETROIT — He could not strap on a Broncos helmet and stick his neck out for a team in desperate need. Safety John Lynch wrapped his arms tighter around his chest, as this Sunday became the unholy mess of a 44-7 loss. It hurt him to watch.
"I miss my boy," Denver teammate Nick Ferguson said of Lynch. "But what can you do?"
Here's what anybody who cares about Lynch must do. You wonder: Do the rewards of football still outweigh the risks?
"I believe so," said Lynch, instructed not to suit up against Detroit while nursing a neck injury.
Wearing a cap, the 36-year-old veteran walked off the football field where he helplessly watched all the humiliation the Lions heaped on Denver.
And it was impossible to miss the 2-inch vertical scar that has creased the middle of Lynch's neck since delicate surgery ended his employment with Tampa Bay nearly four years ago and left many in the NFL asking if he could ever play again.
That's why friends such as Lions coach Ron Marinelli now worry about Lynch, who has cheated fate and earned trips to the Pro Bowl in each of three full seasons with the Broncos.
"It's hard. Ron Marinelli, who I love and respect as much as anybody in football, comes up to me after the game," said Lynch, who grew close to Marinelli while they won a championship together in Tampa. "And he says to me: 'You've got a wonderful family. Some things are more important than football."'
Lynch is not ready to quit a game he loves, and he despises the idea of leaving teammates in the lurch, when red-faced Broncos coach Mike Shanahan seethes without any answers, while Denver can be found in the middle of football crisis but a million miles from Super Bowl contention.
While television cameras chased the wreckage of a 3-5 team in the losing dressing room, Lynch quietly buttoned a shirt at his locker stall.
His eyes did not budge as I asked if shooting neck pain that forced Lynch to the sideline a week ago against Green Bay and prevented him from playing against Detroit was a sign that maybe 15 years of delivering and taking hard shots was as much abuse as any one body should take.
"That's not what I'm being told," said Lynch, whose mind was eased when medical experts recently proclaimed his latest injury did no structural damage to his neck.
At the same time, Lynch knows it would be foolhardy to rush his return to the Broncos lineup.
"You have to trust your instincts. But that's a hard thing for a player to do, especially when your team is struggling, and you feel like you're letting them down by not being out on the field. So it's a real tough deal," Lynch said. "I've learned you can't always be the tough guy who says, 'I'm going to play through an injury."'
Here is an exceptional athlete who's 100 percent guaranteed safe for any father to tell his son to follow step for step, from the education Lynch received at Stanford to the shiny career success and the love shared in communities from Florida to Colorado.
Many athletes do not know what to do with themselves after the final whistle. But you get the feeling Lynch has only just begun. He has the talent to teach youth in need or scrub dirt from the American political process. As a football coach or captain of industry, Lynch seems destined to win.
What Lynch can do for the Broncos pales in comparison to the impact he can make in America for decades.
"I worry about John's health," said Ferguson, Lynch's wing man in the deep secondary. "We're ebony and ivory. The keys on my piano. Oh, Lord, why don't we ... You know what I'm talking about, don't you?"
Can there be any doubt? No. 47 represents everything the Broncos aspire to be.
The Hall of Fame credentials for Lynch have already been sent to the jury. Maybe it's not worth sticking his neck out for a Denver team so beat down by bad luck, freaky setbacks and blows to the ego that Ferguson asks, "It's like: What's next? Are birds going to fall out of the sky?"
It's not my business to tell Lynch when he should walk away from the NFL. But no one player can save Denver from the bloody Valentine the team has made of this heartbreaking season.
The rare man who can make a real difference is bigger than football.
His family and his community need a healthy and productive Lynch far worse than the Broncos do. Now. And for the next 50 years.
|11-05-2007, 10:56 AM||#2|
Join Date: Apr 2006
Location: Abu Dhabi
Kiszla's really hitting his stride as a writer these days... I can't recall a Denver beat writer putting out as many consistently good articles as he has this season.
|11-05-2007, 01:01 PM||#3|
Join Date: Oct 2005
It's tough. That is going to be a tough decision for him and he will be greatly missed