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At all cost

T.O.'s Super Bowl saga can't compare to Youngblood's

Posted: Monday January 31, 2005 8:36AM; Updated: Monday January 31, 2005 9:44AM
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Jack Youngblood was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2001.
Rick Stewart/Getty Images

"I'm sorry this phone keeps beeping,'' Jack Youngblood was saying over the weekend on the phone from his home outside Orlando. His call-waiting was more of a click than a beep, but he was right. It happened a lot. "I guess this is a story that interests some people.''

You might say that. Youngblood snapped his left leg in the second quarter of a 1979 playoff game at Dallas, then played the next two-and-a-half games with the leg tightly wrapped. Now, six weeks after surgery to repair a broken leg and damaged ankle ligaments, Philadelphia wideout Terrell Owens will attempt to play Sunday in Super Bowl XXXIX.

I will get to the specifics of Youngblood's tale in a moment. It's a great story, and because it happened 25 years ago, there are probably an awful lot of you out there who don't know it very well, or at all. But I thought the most interesting thing I noticed in conversing with the Hall of Fame defensive end was the edge I caught in his voice when I asked him what sort of advice he'd have for Owens right now, seeing as though there's only been one guy in history to play in a Super Bowl with an honest-to-goodness broken leg, and he was the guy.

"To be honest,'' Youngblood said, "it's hard to compare my injury to [Owens']. He's been out of the game for what, five weeks? He's been convalescing. After four weeks, an amputation should be healed. Shouldn't it?''


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That had the ring of a guy who thinks, deep down, it's absurd that the public is talking about what an incredible story it would be if Owens played a football game six weeks and four days after the surgery. And it underscored the difference in generations. "If he's the football player I think he is, and I hope he is,'' said Youngblood, "regardless of his antics, he'll play. I know this: Nothing would hold me out of this game.''

Now let's let Youngblood tell his story.

"It was the first game of the 1979 playoffs. We had barely made it to the playoffs after having one of the dominant teams in the league for a few years and never getting over the hump. Really, it was a little bit of a surprise we made it. So we're playing the Cowboys in Dallas in the divisional playoffs. Late in the second quarter, the guard bumps me over, foot gets caught in the turf, and it gets pinned up against a body and I feel it snap maybe an inch or two above the ankle. I rolled around like a turtle in pain. They take me directly to the locker room. Clarence Shields, one of our doctors, takes an X-ray, and I'm just dying, from pain and anger that I'm out of the game.

"I start yelling, 'Somebody come in here and tape this damn thing up and bring me some aspirin!' Clarence comes in and says, 'I can't do that! You're fibula's snapped like a pencil.'

"I said I didn't care, and he sticks the X-ray in that light board they had and says, 'Look! You got a broken bone!'