- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Dickey is 6'4" and normally weighs between 200 and 210 pounds. But when he returned to Houston, he weighed just 170. "It was scary," Pastorini recalls. "He was skin and bones. Plus he was on pain drugs and was sort of out of it. You wondered if he'd hurt his hip or his brain."
Dickey fought through the fog and, with the help of Oiler Quarterback Coach King Hill, began his comeback. He went from a wheelchair to crutches to a cane, and then around New Year's 1973 he walked unassisted. When he finally shuffled around a football field a short while later, he called home immediately. "Guess what?" he said to his parents. "I just jogged."
Dickey made the Oilers' roster again the next fall, astonishing everyone. But he could never supplant Pastorini, and after the '75 season he was traded to Green Bay. He started for the Packers in '76, but in the 10th game he separated his right—throwing—shoulder and underwent surgery in which a screw was implanted in the joint. The operation itself was routine, but the incision became infected. Dickey recovered during the offseason and was doing well the next year until Ram Defensive Tackle Larry Brooks crashed into him on the last play of a game on Nov. 13.
Brooks's hit shattered the tibia and fibula in Dickey's left leg, and as Dickey lay on the sod, his left ankle pointed in at a 90-degree angle. Doctors operated, screwing a metal plate to the broken bones to secure them while they knitted. After several months the plate was removed, and Dickey tried to run again. He worked up to a mile a day, but the pain in his leg never slackened. There was nonunion of the bones. In effect, the leg was still broken.
Dickey had to undergo yet another operation, one in which a metal rod was hammered like a railroad spike down through an opening just below his knee and into his tibia. The rod strengthened the bone, but it left Dickey with such acute tendinitis in his knee that he could barely jog.
"I remember seeing him when he was in a lot of pain sitting alone in the whirlpool," says Gentile. "He'd be tapping the sides with his fingers, and you could tell he was thinking about quitting."
Dickey went so far as to interview for a job as a sporting-goods sales rep, but he quickly dropped the idea. After missing all but a few plays of 33 consecutive games, he hobbled back into the Packers' starting lineup in November of 1979.
In 1980 the rod was removed from Dickey's leg—it was his seventh operation—and the tendinitis in his knee cleared up. Since then Dickey's injuries have been less severe, if not less painful. In 1980 he had tendinitis in his right shoulder, which at times prevented him from throwing in practice; in 1981 he missed three games after getting speared in the back; this summer his back acted up, and then came that headache the week of the Houston game.
Dickey doesn't talk about his pains much. A couple of years ago he told a reporter, "If no one ever talked to me, it wouldn't bother me a bit." He likes to spend his free time with his family—wife Sherry and three daughters, ages nine, seven and three. When he goes out with the boys, he'll sit back and swap tales, referring to himself occasionally as "this pitiful specimen."
"I don't know how important it is to like the people you work with," says Lofton. "But we all like Lynn."