“I was mad because I had to sit out three weeks,” he says. “I was hot.”
He had seven to nine inches of nerve damage.
“The things we do,” he explains. “Players play. It is who we are. We always think we can overcome.”
Everything is lined up to get the unhealthy player back on the field — the desire of the player, the guy behind you willing to endure more for the paycheck, the urging of the coaches and teammates, the culture that mocks and eradicates the weak and the doctor whose job it is not necessarily to keep the player healthy but healthy enough to be valuable to the team, which isn’t the same thing at all. The doctor gives the player the diagnosis and the consequences on the sidelines with in-game injuries, without the benefit of an MRI, and then the player makes a choice with the information about whether to take a pain-masking shot. And the choice is always to play.
“Damn right,” Taylor says.
You never know if all those needles — and Taylor took a lot — produce more pain. Science has linked Toradol to plantar fasciitis (the aforementioned torn tendons in Taylor’s feet), so Taylor might have been taking one painkiller … that helped create a different pain … and thus required a different painkiller. That was certainly the case after his compartment syndrome. He developed a staph infection that required that catheter to run from armpit to heart with antibiotics. He’d hook himself up to it for a half-hour a day, like a car getting gas, letting the balls of medicine roll into his body. Then he concealed the catheter in tape under his arm so that an opponent wouldn’t know he was weak. Opponents will find your weakness, At the bottom of a fumble pile, a Buffalo Bills player once squeezed the hell out of Taylor’s Adam’s Apple to try and dislodge the football. Anything you read about the PICC line catheter (peripherally inserted central catheter) Taylor used will tell you to avoid swimming or weightlifting or anything that might get it dirty or sweaty. Taylor was playing with it in for weeks while colliding in the most violent of contact sports. Doctors told him it wasn’t a good idea to play with it in. He ignored them.
The training room? Taylor hated guys who “took up residency” there, calling them “soft.” His mentor, Dan Marino, has a quote up on one of the walls in there, something about how being in the training room doesn’t make you part of the team. Taylor was proud to learn that one of his own quotes has been put up in there, too: Be a player, not a patient. So even the one solitary place designated for healing in football, the one safe haven, is literally surrounded on all sides by walls of voices telling the player to get the hell out of here.
“Would I do it all again? I would,” Taylor says. “If I had to sleep on the steps standing up for 15 years, I would do it.”