ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — A year ago at this time, Denver Broncos safety Rahim Moore was dealing with the emotional scars of having allowed Jacoby Jones’ game-turning touchdown in the playoffs.
He used it as fodder for a spectacular 2013 season, one which ended in November with a rare muscle condition.
Now, it’s a physical scar that serves as his motivation.
Jagged and thick, it runs 13 inches down his left calf, a constant reminder of that night six months ago when his decision to go to the hospital in the middle of the night saved not only his NFL career but also his leg and potentially his life.
Hours earlier, in a night game against Kansas City, Moore had taken himself out after feeling weakness in his left leg — “It felt like a baby leg and I haven’t been a baby for 24 years,” he said this week after a teary eyed return to the football field for his first practice with Denver’s revamped defense.
X-rays at the stadium that night revealed no fractures, so Moore went out to dinner with family and friends after the game and headed home.
Soon, a searing jolt of pain sent him rushing for the medicine cabinet. Tylenol did him no good, so he asked his girlfriend to take him to the hospital for something stronger.
Doctors feared it was something much more serious than a pulled muscle, however, and they stuck a needle in his left calf to check the pressure. Sure enough, it was very high: he had a condition called acute lateral compartment syndrome, which required emergency surgery.
“They sliced open my calf and took my muscles out and thank God they were still pink,” Moore said. “Because if they were brown like spoiled meat, they would have had to cut my leg off.”
Doctors told him it was a good thing he didn’t wait to seek medical attention, too. Four hours longer and they would have had to amputate, he said, eight hours and his family would have been planning a funeral.
The Broncos initially figured Moore would be out six to eight weeks, but two weeks later, doctors had to re-open the wound and remove some dying tissue. They left the leg sliced open with antibiotic beads inside for three days before stitching it back up, he said.
His hope of playing in the Super Bowl, which the Broncos would reach without him, was over. Moore had lost 20 pounds and was down to 180.
While his body atrophied, Moore’s mind went into overdrive.
“I spent my time studying offenses and becoming a better player,” he said.
After watching from the sideline when Seattle beat the Broncos for the title, Moore went on a vacation for his birthday, then returned to Florida to begin his comeback.
“I ran hills and did sand work. I got up the hill fast and I was shocked,” Moore said. “So, I ran up backward and I did fine. So, I did some change-of-direction stuff, cutting and I was good. It was like nothing had ever happened.”
His left calf was soon the same size as his right one and he quickly put muscle back on. He said he’s up to 204 pounds.
Doctors can’t pinpoint a cause for Moore’s condition and Moore said he’s not one to ponder fate.
“I don’t ever ask God, ‘Why?’ It doesn’t really matter. You’ve just got to get up and fight some more,” Moore said. “I’ve only wondered will I ever be Rahim again? Will I be the player that I was and can I still be the player I hope to become?
“And I think I will. I’m stronger and faster and quicker than I used to be. I’m full-speed.”
He also doesn’t worry about a recurrence.
“I wouldn’t be back on the field going all-out if I was afraid of this happening again,”
By Arnie Stapleton, AP Sports Writer (© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)