Kyle Turley was on his way to get a massage, but it wasn't what you think. "Trust me, it's not gonna be fun," the Kansas City Chiefs' left tackle was telling me last Saturday afternoon as we finished our meal at Dick Clark's American Bandstand, a diner in Overland Park, Kan. "It's gonna be painful -- at least, it had better be. I'm trying out this guy, and if it turns out to be one of those 'relax and let me rub on you' massages, I'll be royally pissed."
Turley has been dealing with severe back pain since 2004, when he underwent surgery to repair a herniated disk. He reaggravated the injury at the start of training camp that summer and missed the next two seasons, dabbling in acting, TV commentary and the music industry (he played drums in a death-metal band, Perpetual Death Mode), and contemplating comebacks as a defensive end and/or tight end.
In June the eighth-year veteran finally signed to play his old position with the Chiefs, who shortly thereafter lost their starting tackles, Willie Roaf and John Welbourn, to retirement. (Welbourn may return after a six-week suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy.) Turley is lean and mean and opinionated as ever, beginning with his steadfast belief that weight is overrated. As if to illustrate the point, after I asked our waitress for a cheeseburger and a chocolate shake, Turley ordered a salad.
Michael Silver: So how much do you weigh?
Kyle Turley: About 270. And trust me, that's plenty. People are fixated on my weight, but the last time I checked, football is a game, and the guy who has the best technique almost always wins. I don't care how big you are -- it's about leverage and body control. If you get lower than your opponent, you're almost always gonna win that battle. I mean, I've watched 380-pounders get thrown on their head by much smaller dudes. I saw big Kevin Gogan get lifted off the ground and tossed on his ass by John Randle. If it was just about weight, the Chiefs could've walked into any bar and signed some 300-pound f--- to play left tackle.
Silver: When we talked last year, you were done with football. What brought you back?
Turley: When the doctors told me I could rehabilitate my back and play football again and it wouldn't require another surgery, I did everything I could to make that happen. Playing in the NFL was a dream I had as a kid, and to have a chance to end my career on my terms meant everything. So I took the same approach I took at San Diego State after my redshirt freshman year, when I decided to switch from defensive line to offensive line -- because Ed White was my position coach, and I thought he'd give me my best opportunity to make it. This time I was 235 pounds, and I brought that same intensity to the weight room and got with Mark Verstegen at API [Athletes' Performance Institute] in Arizona, and then in L.A.
Silver: What about steroids? Or HGH?
Turley: I've been offered steroids my entire career, and I've never taken them, though I was tempted in college. At San Diego State we were so close to Mexico, guys used to go down to TJ [Tijuana] for lunch and stop at the pharmacy and pick up their stuff. Then they'd grab some lobster and go into the restaurant bathroom and shoot each other in the ass. I thought about doing it too, and I finally decided it would be unfair to myself if I did. When I made it to the NFL, I didn't want anybody to be able to say I had an unfair advantage. I wanted to be able to look at myself in the mirror and know that I had done it all on my own and take pride in that. And I still feel that way today, about all that stuff.