Patterson's choice wouldn't be mine

Patterson
Patterson
Posted: August 24, 2011

IF I WERE Eagles defensive tackle Mike Patterson, I'd never play football again.

I'd think about the seizure I suffered at practice 3 weeks ago, consider the frightening diagnosis of a brain AVM (arteriovenous malformation, a tangle of blood vessels), factor in the millions of dollars I'd already made, and call it a career.

Even with three specialists telling me it was OK to play through the season with proper medication, I would not.

Or at least observing from the outside, I would not play again.

The truth is, I don't know what I would do if I faced the same issue that Patterson does.

I realized my dreams of becoming a professional athlete were just that once I entered high school and saw kids from other neighborhoods who were bigger, faster and stronger.

I understood that only a select few would ever make it to the pros in any sport and I was comfortable with the fact I would not be one of them.

Playing varsity baseball and soccer, for me, was simply about having fun through competition. There were no higher aspirations.

When it was time to earn money for college, I didn't try out for baseball my senior season, but instead got a job. I knew my career in sports would be off the field.

It's difficult for me to discern what motivates Patterson to return to football when another route seems safer and more practical.

But I know it is a common characteristic with most professional athletes.

It took Patterson, 27, a lifetime of effort and dedication to become one of those select few. Unless you've also successfully made that journey, it's hard to truly comprehend what the game means to him.

So, yes, for me, it seemed a little odd to hear Patterson, who is scheduled to play in tomorrow night's preseason game against Cleveland, talking about his return to the Eagles from a brain issue as if he were talking about a return from a sprained ankle.

"Actually, I've felt pretty good about it after the whole process of talking with the doctors," Patterson said when asked whether he had any apprehension. "Once they told me that I was fine and could play football, that was all I needed to hear."

I guess this is just like returning from a knee injury.

Doctors aren't in the habit of letting patients return to a physical activity such as football unless they are convinced it poses no increased health risk.

It just sounds a lot scarier when one of the treatment recommendations is brain surgery after the season.

That sounds like more than the typical playing through some pain.

"My body feels good," Patterson said. "I'm fine physically and mentally.

"I don't have any concerns right now. The doctors said I can play. If I felt I couldn't do this 100 percent, I would not do it all."

As difficult as this might be to believe, Patterson said the AVM will not enter his thoughts when he takes the field.

"The good thing about football is that it's easy to tune everything else out and just go out there and play," he said.

Patterson said his seizure, suffered on Aug. 3, doesn't frighten him, because he had already blacked out when it occurred, so he has little memory of it.

He said it probably bothers the teammates who witnessed it more than it does him.

It's all about football right now.

The 18 days he missed from practice has Patterson in catch-up mode.

"I'm not too far off," he said. "but it's football, so everything takes patience and time.

"As long as I continue to work on the things that I need to and listen to the coaches, I should be fine."

There are several new things for Patterson to digest.

He has had little practice time with new defensive coordinator Juan Castillo, new defensive-line coach Jim Washburn and his new teammates on the defensive line.

Still, as much as they might like to treat this like a normal return from injury situation, the Eagles know it is not. Patterson knows the trainers will keep a close eye on him and will likely ask him, more than a few times, "How are you doing?"

"I'm sure the trainers will be there next to me asking me all kinds of questions and stuff like that," he acknowledged. "It's not going to bother me, because you know there are two separate things.

"You know that they are just trying to see how you are doing healthwise. The football is a totally different thing. It will be easy to keep them apart."


For recent columns, go to www.philly.com/Smallwood.

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