Before I get into an update on my injury, I have to say: I’m really proud of this Kansas City Chiefs team, and the things they’re achieving, making their goals come true. I’m thankful to be a part of this organization and this team.
This is the only organization I’ve ever known. It’s family to me.
I couldn’t be happier for their success. I have a lot of close friends on the team, and they know how much I care about them. There’s obviously a part of me that wishes I could be a bigger part of it, that I could be contributing on the field. But that’s not the plan for me right now.
The story out in the world was that there was swelling in my knee that held me back, but that’s not what happened. The knee didn’t swell or anything like that. I didn’t get hurt in a game, either. I got hurt on the practice field.
It’s a tough break for me, but I can’t really dwell on it. I have to worry about my health and getting myself right. That’s why I’ve spent the last few months down in Pensacola, working hard.
HOW I GOT HERE
There’s been speculation that I tried to come back too quick, or that I wasn’t ready, but I honestly don’t think me coming back to play is what caused this to happen.I think, if anything, I was doing too much extra work on top of what I was doing with the team and the trainers.
Everybody was questioning me, talking about what I should be doing, and asking “Why doesn’t Jamaal look like this coming back from surgery, why does he look like that?” But at the end of the day, you have to be true to who you are instead of listening to the outside voices and trying to follow everybody else’s advice. Everybody is trying to diagnose the body, but nobody knows the body better than God. Man didn’t make the body. God did.
When I came back in Week 4, I needed to shake some rust off. But two weeks later, I was feeling good. I thought that since I had a good game against Oakland, maybe I could do extra stuff before and after practice to get even better, and that kind of backfired on me. The week after the Raiders game, we got into practice, and everything was going normally. Afterward, I stayed out doing some more extra work. Nobody was really out there besides the running backs, everybody had gone back in, just the running back coaches and the running backs were still outside. There were 5-10 of us at most.
We were running through some drills, and when I went to make a cut, my leg just locked up. It wasn’t painful—there was just something weird about it. It locked up, and I couldn’t walk. I had to be carted off the field. They did an MRI, but you couldn’t tell what was going on or what was wrong with me. After you have a knee surgery like I had, it’s hard to tell from an MRI what’s going on. I just knew for myself that even after they worked on my leg, something wasn’t right. I wasn’t the same.
At that point, I had to make a decision to play with the injury or sit out. That week, we were playing New Orleans and I tried to give it a go, but it was still feeling the same. I think I had one carry in that game, and it just didn’t feel right. So I told my running back coach I couldn’t go anymore, and sat the rest of that one out. I wanted to see what would happen the following week, and if it would get any better with a little time.
When it really got real was that next week. I was at home playing with my daughter. She grabbed my leg and it locked up, just like it had at practice. At that point, I started thinking, “How am I going to go out on the field and play if I can’t even play with my kids?” My daughter is four years old. If her grabbing my leg is going to cause it to lock up, imagine what would happen if a 300-pound dude fell on me.
That really allowed me to put things in perspective as it related to my family instead of my career. At the end of the day, my family comes first. We’re about to have a little boy. If I can’t play with him or my daughters, what am I doing?
My health and my family come before everything.
VISITING DR. ANDREWS
I actually did try to give it a go again against the Colts the next week, because I thought it would get better, and it did a little bit. But it still wasn’t there yet, so I had to tell the coaches I couldn’t play. The coaches understood. They said that it’s a long season and that they cared about me, so they told me to go see what’s going on. Maybe it’s something. Maybe it’s nothing. Or maybe it’s just a little issue. We had to find out.
So I booked a flight down to see Dr. Andrews in Pensacola. I was supposed to go down there for just one day. But he really didn’t know what was going on either. He checked me out from my knees to my ankles, trying to figure out what was going on and come up with a diagnosis and treatment. He knew he had to do more tests, so he called our trainer. They decided to keep me down in Pensacola for a bit and run me through some tests.
I did a bunch of different things with him. I was running on the field really well at first, doing a full workout, but as we got into it, I started not feeling so great again. That helped them narrow down the problem and he decided he was going to go into the knee and do a scope.
That’s when he found out it was a meniscus tear.
When they told me it wasn’t my ACL, I was thankful. You have to be. Once you go through an ACL tear—or two in my case—and you find out it’s just the meniscus, there’s some relief there. When you go through the process with the ACL, that really gives you some things to think about. A meniscus is minor in comparison. People have played through it, and guys tolerate that. My body wasn’t adapting to it, but that’s ok. I was thankful my ACL was still intact because it meant there was still a chance for me.
That’s more powerful than anything in the world.
I was given the option to let it heal or have surgery, and I made the decision to go ahead and get the surgery because it was already on my mind. I didn’t want to be tentative on the field, wondering if my leg could lock up at any time. If I get hit, knowing that I’m not healthy, that puts doubt in your mind. I’m not about to play like that.
I was nervous about having the surgery at first, and a big reason for that was that it would require me to step away from the team again. But I’m feeling good and I’m happy I did it. A lot of guys on my team I’ve talked to, they were very supportive of me, and telling me to go ahead and do it. They understood my health comes before the team. To hear that advice from them, I was just like, “You know what? I’m going to go do it.” They’re being real with me and telling me the truth. That’s all I can ask for from them.
At the end of the day, I’m happy I had the surgery because I’m feeling good now, better than I’ve felt all year. I’m getting back to where I need to be, back healthy again.
It’s supposed to be 6-7 weeks from that type of procedure until you can come back and play, so when I asked if there was a possibility I could come back and play this year, Dr. Andrews said, “Yeah, it’s a possibility.” That was with eight games to go. The team put me on injured reserve, and we talked about it, and decided to have him clean out the other knee as well. That one wasn’t as bad, but there was some stuff in there. It made sense to do it so I could just heal up and go out there feeling the same way in both knees, just completely ready.
Neither procedure was a major surgery. I’ve been through two major knee surgeries now, where I couldn’t even walk after. These surgeries were no pain at all, really light, I didn’t even have to take any medicine after. So I’ve been excited from day one.
I’m honestly thankful to God for allowing me to go through this again, not having to go through another major injury, and that they were able to fix my knees. Now I can get back to focusing on what I want to do.
ROAD TO RECOVERY
The trainers down in Pensacola have done a really good job bringing me through this, so I’m just listening to them every step of the way. I know this time I have to do it right.
Dr. Andrews is the best doctor I’ve ever met. He’s always honest with me, and very supportive of me through this whole process. I’m happy to be working with him and all the great people he has on his staff.
They had me doing workouts in the pool, on the bike, jump rope and squats, leg extensions, just everything I could to get ready so I can start moving around, running and moving laterally and then really start cutting. I think all this rehab work is going to help me a lot, just getting my conditioning and strength up.
I honestly don’t know what the future holds for me. I know it’s God’s will and God’s purpose to determine what’s next for me. I’m just thankful. I’m thankful for my friends and my family, and the people that surround me and support me through these humbling experiences. This is another crisis, another time falling down, but I know I’ll always get back up.
The support for me has been tremendous. So many people have reached out to me while I’ve been down here, from Coach Reid to Coach EB to all of the other running backs. The trainers call me every day. Eric Berry, Jeremy Maclin, Dontari Poe, DJ and a lot of my other teammates are in contact with me. Even some of the people I know through Brothers in Christ reached out to me. I have a great support system, and I’m so thankful to God for allowing me to be around that. It’s uplifting to see how many people really care about me.
Because the girls are in school, my wife and kids couldn’t be down in Pensacola with me like they were during the offseason. They came down for my surgery and my wife was here for a little bit, but she had to go back to take care of things at home.
She’s doing really well as her pregnancy moves along. She sends me pictures, and she’s shopping nonstop trying to get ready for the baby to come. She’s just excited. We’re going to bring a new life into this world. As it gets closer, it gets more and more overwhelming. But I’m thrilled. I’m going to have a son to keep the legacy going.
I want to thank everybody who has reached out for your support, especially the fans. It means so much to me to have that through this.
Most people don’t want to admit when they’re going through a tough time, but it doesn’t scare me to admit it. When you go through crisis, instead of complaining about it, if you’re thankful for all that you have, you’ll make it through anything. I’m grateful that I’m still alive and I have my wife, my daughters, a son on the way and so many amazing people around me. I’m blessed and I’m happy with my circumstances and thankful for where I am. It’s always God’s purpose to reveal something to me, and I’m still trying to see the path he’s showing me.
What I do know is that I still want to play football. I was only 29 years old this season. My goal right now is to just focus on the now and my rehab and let the rest sort itself out later.
In the meantime, I tell all our fans: Don’t worry about me, I’m in good hands. Go Chiefs!