QB Brian Griese (8) plans to offer just as much sideline help to new starter Chris Simms as Simms wants
On October 16, just before halftime of a 27-13 victory over the Miami Dolphins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Brian Griese sustained what would prove to be a season-ending knee injury.
Just minutes later, even before the game had resumed, Griese was on his way to a nearby hospital for the first MRI examination of his left knee. The ride took five minutes. That also defined the length of his mourning period.
Take pity on him if you will; he had, after all, worked awfully hard to rescue his career from third-string status and become the starter on a 5-1 football team. Griese, however, isn't looking back, and he isn't wasting any time wallowing in despair, thanks to that trip to the hospital.
We'll let Griese's own words explain his epiphany.
"I felt sorry for myself in that car ride," he said. "But when I got to the hospital, to get to the MRI they wheeled me through the emergency room. And I was still in my pads – they didn't even take me out of my pads – so everybody in the emergency room knew who I was and was congratulating me on doing well in the game.
"But they were also saying that they wished me well on my injury and hopefully it wasn't as bad as it could be. I just thought to myself at that point, 'What a great perspective.' I went from the stage that everybody wants to be on, Sunday afternoon playing professional football, to the emergency room where there are people lying in the hallways and people who probably won't get out of that emergency room. And they were wishing me well.
"It gave me perspective: You know what? I have a knee injury. It will heal, I'll be fine, I'll be able to come back and play on that field again. But I'm not as bad as the people who were in that emergency room. So I felt sorry for myself for about five minutes on that ride, but after that I can't realistically or logically feel sorry for myself."
What to do, then?
Well, first comes surgery, though that process could be delayed by an unexpected source: Hurricane Wilma.
Griese suffered a tear to two ligaments in his left knee, the MCL and the ACL. The latter injury is the one that will cost him the season, and it will require reconstructive surgery and, typically, five to six months of rehab to repair it. Griese's surgery is scheduled for Friday but is to be performed in Miami, and the sweeping power losses in the southern portion of the state could make that impossible. Still, he should have the procedure done within a week, and he will then begin his recovery as quickly and as aggressively as the training staff allows.
Griese's perspective on his situation also includes an overriding optimism about the long rehab process he faces.
"The thing about this injury is I'm not the first guy to ever have it," he said. "There's been a lot of experience with this surgery. I'm really confident that I'll go in, get it fixed and be back on the road to recovery. Typically, it's five to six months, I think, before you get back. So hopefully by March or April I'll be back on the field working out and getting this thing back to 100%. I'm really optimistic that I'll get this thing fixed and be back, and be back bigger and stronger than I ever was before. You've got to be positive and optimistic about it, which I am."
The work on his knee will keep him coming to team headquarters every day, but he had intended to be a fixture at the place anyway. Griese's teammates elected him as a team captain before the season and he said he intends to fulfill his duties in that regard. He is sure he can continue to help the team, even if he can't get back between the lines this fall.
There are selfish motives intertwined with that sense of duty, too. He was lifted rather abruptly out of the fray as his team was fighting for a playoff spot, and so far doing it successfully. After a few rough seasons, including last year in which he mostly performed very well but the Bucs struggled to a 5-11 finish, he was eager to see where this 2005 path would lead. He still is.
"I want to be a part of the good times because if you play long enough in this league there's going to be tough times," he said. "You just hope that if you persevere you'll get to the good times and we're having a good time this year. Hopefully that will continue, and I'm going to be a part of that too, just in a different role. I'm not going to let everybody else have all the fun and not be a part of it. But I'm going to keep a positive attitude."
Specifically, Griese can be of aid to new starter Chris Simms. He plans to let Simms dictate how much he is involved in his day-to-day preparations, especially on game day. But the two are close, and Griese has a lot of confidence in his younger teammate's abilities, so they should find a way to work together very productively.
"I hope to be really involved," said Griese. "Now, I'm not going to be out there on the front lines of the battlefield with my men, but I can still do some things to help in the battle. I'm going to try to help Chris as much as I possibly can. I think there are some things that I can help him with during the week in preparation, I think there are things I can help him with on game day. I've got a great relationship with him and I'll continue to help him because that's my job."
Simms will begin preparing for the 49ers and his third career start on Wednesday afternoon, and Griese's support role is still yet to be defined. But, when pressed, the veteran did have one piece of overall advice to offer.
"That's easy: You've just got to go have fun," said the veteran passer. "That's why you play the game, that's why we're all here putting the time and the energy in. That's why we try to persevere through the hard times. Go out and have fun. He understands that."