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 Never a doubt

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RustShack
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PostSubject: Never a doubt   Tue Aug 09, 2011 9:19 am

Never A Doubt … Tuesday Cup O’Chiefs
August 9, 2011 - Bob Gretz |

From St. Joseph, Missouri

It was a typically hot summer night at Arrowhead Stadium. The date was August 27, 2010, and under the Friday night lights the Chiefs were hosting the Philadelphia Eagles.

The third quarter was winding down, and the Eagles had the ball. On a first-down play, Philly QB Kevin Kolb dumped off a short pass to RB Mike Bell on his left.

Chiefs then rookie OLB Cameron Sheffield saw the play develop. He stuck his back foot in the ground and shot forward as fast as he could. Bell had gained about three yards when he and Sheffield met, helmet-to-helmet, a thudding sound that could be heard in the stands.

Sheffield did not get up. For awhile he could not move his arms and legs. There was a period as he lay on the Arrowhead grass where he blacked out, although he does remember the hit on Bell. He passed in and out of consciousness. He can’t remember being strapped on the back board by paramedics. He has a hazy recollection of teammates coming over the touch him. “I know that happened because I’ve got a picture of it,” Sheffield said.

The point where the fog cleared for him was in the ambulance, on the way to a Kansas City hospital, where he spent the next two nights before he was released.

His rookie season was over. He went on the injured-reserve list with either a neck injury, head trauma, or both. The Chiefs don’t provide details like that about injuries and they tell their players not to reveal anything. But there’s no doubt about the seriousness of what happened to Sheffield.

That’s part of his past now, and the prevailing attitude around the Pioli/Haley Chiefs is to leave the past behind and ponder the now and the future. All that will intersect for Sheffield this Friday, when the Chiefs open the pre-season by hosting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It comes just 50 weeks to the night when he suffered his injury.

So yes, there is some trepidation for Sheffield. But he says there’s nothing out of the ordinary in what he’s feeling this week as the game draws closer and he ponders his first collision since the injury.

“I’m pretty sure it would be that way anyway because it usually is before that first game every year,” Sheffield said.

“I feel good just being back. I’m very excited about the upcoming game and I just want to get in the best shape possible so I can compete and see what I can for this team. Whatever role they assign me I’m going to do my best and give it my all.”

Sheffield speaks of everything involved with his injury in a matter-of-fact matter. But make no mistake there were moment when fear, frustration and anger dominated his thoughts. This was the first time football had been taken away from him, and while he was lucky his injury was not more serious, there was no second guessing on his part about the future. Walking away from the game he loved wasn’t happening.

“That was never a question in my mind,” Sheffield said of returning to football. “That was really my first major injury and hopefully it’s my last.

“I truly can’t see myself doing anything else but playing football right now. This has always been my goal since I knew what football was. One injury is not going to stop that.”

One of the many sad results of Sheffield’s injury was stopping in its tracks the improvement he had made during the 2010 pre-season. At Troy, he was essentially a defensive end, but he wasn’t big enough to play end in an NFL 3-4 defense. He was told to drop some pounds and report for training camp ready to play on the edge as a linebacker.

The transition didn’t come easy for the rookie out of Portal, Georgia and he was a non-factor early in camp. But day-by-day his confidence grew, as did his performance.

That’s where he’s trying to pick up and start this year at Missouri Western. Because of the crazy nature of the post-lockout NFL, Sheffield has not had the opportunity to cut loose during practice and show the speed and power that was on display before he was injured.

But that time is coming and he plans to be ready.

“It’s a new season and a new chance,” Sheffield said.

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