Jump to content

On Chrebet's Mind, Matters of Risk vs. Reward


Recommended Posts

On Chrebet's Mind, Matters of Risk vs. Reward


Published: August 1, 2005

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y., July 31 - Jets receiver Wayne Chrebet was not blindsided by the question, as he had been by so many jarring hits over the years. Asked the other day for his reaction to the news that New England Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson had retired because of the aftereffects of multiple concussions, Chrebet drew in a deep breath, exhaled slowly and said, "I've been waiting for somebody to ask that."

Chrebet, 32, knows well the symptoms that drove Johnson to retire, the irritability and insomnia and memory loss that Johnson said he "just couldn't ignore" anymore. Each of the past two off-seasons, Chrebet has had to weigh his passion for football against the perils of taking one more hit to the head.

"I'd be curious to talk to him," Chrebet said, "just to see what his symptoms were."

Johnson chose to retire after huddling with specialists. Chrebet, who is eight months younger than Johnson, decided to play an 11th season after conferring with the Jets' medical staff and consulting with his family, primarily his wife, Amy.

"I just begged my wife and told her I know what I'm doing and it's important to me and we'll get through whatever happens together," Chrebet said.

It would be counterproductive for receivers like Chrebet, whose bailiwick is the middle of the field, to think too much about consequences. If Chrebet considered what might happen after he catches the ball, he would never run another drag pattern.

He is conditioned to look at his long-term health the same way. "Obviously, I am on thin ice right now with it," Chrebet said, "but I can't go out there and think about it that way. I have to go out there and play the same way that I have played and hope for the best."

Does he worry about his quality of life later, based on the decisions he's making now? Shifting his weight on the car on which he was leaning, Chrebet said: "That's the problem. I haven't thought that far ahead."

If Chrebet is going to think like a prizefighter, it seems that it falls to the Jets' coaching staff to be his corner men.

"You know, I have to be smart for him in a lot of cases," said the receivers coach Pep Hamilton, who is 13 months younger than Chrebet. "I've got to know when to throw in the towel."

Chrebet has had at least four concussions, dating to his college playing career at Hofstra. He sustained the last one in the Jets' regular-season finale at St. Louis last year.

In that game, Coach Herman Edwards said he ordered Chrebet to hand over his helmet. Five minutes later, Chrebet was behind Edwards, kneeing him to get his attention. "Wayne, you're not going in the game," Edwards recalled telling him. "Will you please leave me alone?"

On Edwards's orders, Chrebet reluctantly sat out the Jets' first-round playoff game, against the San Diego Chargers. He suited up against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the second round but did not make a catch.

He could have retired after the Jets' 20-17 overtime loss to the Steelers. After all, he had already lasted longer in the N.F.L. than anyone would have thought possible of an undersized, undrafted free agent out of Hofstra.

But those who marvel daily at Chrebet's drive were not at all surprised when he decided to come back. "He still has something in his gut that he has to prove," Edwards said. "That's what keeps him going, that's what makes him who he is."

Chrebet does not sugarcoat his condition. Some mornings, he said, "I can't believe how horrible I feel." He shrugged. "You just hope it goes away," he said.

He said he had not spoken to anybody who was in his position, not even to the former Jets receiver Al Toon, who was forced into retirement by postconcussion syndrome in 1992. "I don't know why I haven't," Chrebet said. "Maybe I don't want to know."

Chrebet looked to be in peak health during the afternoon practice Sunday. Running on fresh legs after having the morning off, he caught a pass and slithered out of the grasp of cornerback Derrick Strait, sprinting another 10 yards downfield.

Chrebet's work ethic, combined with his slight physical stature and New Jersey roots, have made him a beloved figure among Jets fans like Steve Berlin of Wharton, N.J., who wore a replica of Chrebet's No. 80 jersey at practice Saturday.

As much as he enjoys watching Chrebet play, "it's going to be very concerning this year watching him going over the middle all the time," Berlin said.

Berlin was not voicing anything Chrebet had not heard before. "Sure, all my friends and family worry," he said. "But let's say I have a great support group as far as backing my decisions and being there for me."


Quarterback Chad Pennington threw against a defense for the third consecutive day. Pennington told Coach Herman Edwards on Saturday, after he had thrown on back-to-back days for the first time since having shoulder surgery in February, that his arm felt fine. "He's been out there throwing three days, and that's a good sign," Edwards said

Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...