Robinson's route to Super Bowl had some scary turns

ASSOCIATED PRESS Michael Robinson was cut by Seahawks after a health scare caused by medicine team doctors prescribed.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Michael Robinson was cut by Seahawks after a health scare caused by medicine team doctors prescribed.
Posted: January 29, 2014

JERSEY CITY, N.J. - You're getting interviewed at the Super Bowl, people expect sweetness and light. It's a given that you're the luckiest guy in the world, so fortunate to be playing for the best gosh-darned organization in sports. Just about every question is about how this or that wonderful aspect of your team has helped bring you to the brink of winning the NFL championship.

Sometimes the story is a little more complicated. Michael Robinson, the Seattle Seahawks fullback who led Penn State to the 2005 Big Ten title as a quarterback, definitely feels lucky to be here. But his story is not all sweetness and light.

The Seahawks cut Robinson on Aug. 30. He had fallen ill a few weeks earlier, lost a lot of weight, somewhere around 30 pounds. They had two younger guys who could do the job, both making way less than the $2.5 million Robinson was scheduled to make in 2013.

Turned out, though, that Robinson was ill because of a reaction to Indocin, an anti-inflammatory medication the Seahawks had prescribed him. For following their doctors' medical advice, he lost his job. Eventually, in October, injuries to the younger, cheaper guys led the Seahawks to bring Robinson back - at the $840,000 veteran minimum.

It had to be tough to come back under those terms, in that situation. Robinson had tried out with the Giants and Titans in the interim, nearly signed as a Titan before getting the call to return to Seattle.

"If you think there's loyalty in this business, shame on you," Robinson said yesterday at the Seahawks' hotel, when asked about being cut because the teamprescribed medication made him seriously ill. "I wrestled with it, but it was easy when I looked at my relationship with the guys on the team. That's why you play this game. And I think a big reason why we're here is that every man in that locker room thinks the same way. We all play because of the guy next to you, perform because the guy next to you is counting on you. Peer accountability, that's the biggest thing in accountability."

Someone asked about the fact that Robinson, who turns 31 next month, had tears in his eyes after the Seahawks' NFC Championship Game victory over San Francisco.

"I had a long year, man. Being cut, being sick," Robinson said. "Not really realizing the extent of the sickness. I didn't know that my kidneys were failing and my liver was failing. I just thought I was getting a bug. But again, hindsight is 20/20. I'm glad I'm here now. I got my weight back, got my strength back, and it was an opportunity to come back here. I'm glad it opened up."

Robinson's saga began, strangely enough, with a preseason game against the Denver Broncos, Seattle's opponent in Super Bowl XLVIII.

"After the second preseason game against Denver, man, I just felt like I was getting the flu," Robinson said. "I mentioned to the doctors, 'Look, man, I think I'm going to come in next week and get some fluids,' stuff like that. It just went downhill from there. Kidney failure, liver failure, all of it.

"I went to the hospital three separate times. Two times, they sent me home. They just told me to keep getting fluids. I went 2 weeks without eating. I lost a lot of weight. They hadn't seen anything like this. Once we brought the liver specialists in, the kidney specialists in, they'd seen these types of reactions before, and they were all over it."

It's unclear exactly how far along the doctors were in the diagnosis when Seattle decided to release Robinson. Maybe he would have been cut anyway, given the competition and his salary. But can you imagine anything like this in the "real" world - employer causes you to get sick, then fires you for not being able to work, then brings you back a few months later when you're better, but you have to take a two-thirds pay cut?

That's the reality of life in the NFL. A few years ago, the Eagles got defensive tackle Mike Patterson to take a pay cut because he couldn't get medical clearance to return from brain surgery to repair a dangerous tangle of blood vessels quickly enough to play as big a role in their season as he'd hoped, and they'd expected.

It would be interesting if the league tried that philosophy with, say, coaches. Did John Fox really earn the $3.5 million or so he was scheduled to earn this season, for getting the Broncos to the Super Bowl? After all, defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio had to coach the team for four games while Fox recovered from heart surgery. That's a quarter of the regular season. Denver might want to look at that.

Of course, the accepted narrative in Seattle now is that Robinson's presence at the Super Bowl is a testament to perseverance, and never mind the circumstances that led him to have to persevere.

"Mike is a very emotional player and gives everything he's got . . . When Mike was really sick at the start of the year and was unable to perform, he lost his opportunity," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said yesterday, when asked about Robinson's emotional journey. "Probably there were moments when Michael thought he might not ever get another chance. So when we did come back to him . . . it was very meaningful for Michael.

"He's been a big factor on our team, because we don't have that many older guys, and he really stands for the old guard. He's been a big factor on special teams, as well. You can see that emotion come out of Michael. He's the guy that thought, 'Maybe I'll never get this chance again,' then he comes back to play and he gets to play in the Super Bowl. I totally get and respect" Robinson's emotions.

Robinson, who made the Pro Bowl 2 years ago, said he counsels younger players to play as if every season were their last. He knows this could be it for him; his contract is up, and the Seahawks are very high on 23-year-old Derrick Coleman, the first deaf offensive player in the NFL.

"I love DC. He is the future of the fullback position here. He understands that I know that," Robinson said.

Robinson worked as a guest analyst for the NFL Network while he was regaining his strength. This might be a career path, though he said he found it excruciating while he was doing it.

"Monday through Saturday, I kind of liked being home with my family. It was very, very tough on Sunday to have a microphone, be an analyst, be able to analyze objectively what I see on TV, when I know I can still go out there and play," Robinson said. "It was just hard to deal with."

On Twitter: @LesBowen


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