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Broken But Unbowed
Jill Lieber
March 20, 1989
Since he shattered his leg in the Super Bowl, Tim Krumrie has survived a nightmare
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March 20, 1989

Broken But Unbowed

Since he shattered his leg in the Super Bowl, Tim Krumrie has survived a nightmare

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"What did the cowboys do?" said Krumrie. "Give me a bullet."

Krumrie didn't brace himself for what happened next. "I didn't even close my eyes," he says. "I watched them do it. I accepted the challenge. In a way, I think I was punishing myself for breaking the leg."

After the leg was placed in a temporary cast from hip to toe, Krumrie begged the doctors to let him join his teammates on the sideline. "Put me in a wheelchair," he said. "It's my party. I will not leave."

Heidt was worried about the leg swelling, which could lead to permanent nerve or muscle damage. He proposed a compromise: If Krumrie would promise to lie quietly on a cot, he could watch the game in the locker room on a portable black-and-white TV. Fair enough, Krumrie said. Then he ordered a couple of beers. Early in the fourth quarter, however, Heidt ordered Krumrie to be taken to Mercy Hospital by ambulance in order to avoid being delayed by postgame traffic.

Before breaking his leg, Krumrie had been an iron man. In 16 years of football—210 games—starting in junior high school, he had never been severely injured. He regularly yanked dislocated fingers into place while standing in the Cincinnati huddle, and he says he had never taken a painkilling injection. Bengal fans call him King of the Jungle, and he has earned that title the hard way.

As a 10th-round draft choice out of Wisconsin in 1983, he was a long shot to make it in the NFL. But the work ethic he learned on his family's dairy farm near Mondovi helped turn Krumrie into the best nosetackle in football and the leader of the Cincinnati defense. Last season he made 152 tackles, more than any other lineman in the league.

Krumrie spent the night of the Super Bowl, which the Bengals lost 20-16 in the final minutes, at the hospital. He was in agony. "I felt like my heart was pumping in the middle of my leg," he says. "I could feel the blood rushing through it. My leg got very warm, and there was a steady ache. I had never felt anything like it.

"I asked the nurse to give me a shot for the pain, and 15 minutes later I pushed the button again. The shot wasn't doing anything. She said that was all she could give me until the morning. I didn't sleep a bit."

Krumrie returned to Cincinnati the day after the game on the team plane. An ambulance took him to the tarmac, where he was transferred on a stretcher to an airline food-service truck and then lifted through one of the plane's side doors into the first-class section. Upon arriving in Cincinnati, he was taken to Christ Hospital.

Before he underwent surgery the next morning, he asked Heidt and Welch about his chances of ever again being the player he had been before the injury. They told him his injury could have been much worse: He had not suffered a compound fracture, meaning the broken bones had not punctured the skin, so there was no danger of infection. In addition, no tendons or joints had been seriously damaged. "I told them my career was in their hands," says Krumrie, "and that if they screwed up they'd have me to answer to."

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