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As The NFL season rolls on, Philadelphia Eagle quarterback Randall Cunningham sits, watches and waits. Last season he passed for 3,466 yards and 30 touchdowns, and led the Eagles in rushing with 942 yards. But on Sept. 1 in the first game of the season, he was hit by Green Bay linebacker Bryce Paup and tore the medial collateral and posterior cruciate ligaments in his left knee. Three days later, in a two-hour operation, the knee was repaired, but Cunningham's season was declared over. The doctors say he won't be able to work out fully until next July. The enforced rest and rehab have given Cunningham a chance to reflect on his six years in the league. He says he has been misunderstood, that he's not the cocky showboat sometimes portrayed. He says the disgruntlement voiced by some of his teammates last spring—"His ego's too big," said one; "He only cares about himself," said another—was exaggerated by the press. He says he'll be back, astonishing fans once again with his running and throwing. Astonishing even himself.
Sports Illustrated: Did you, before getting hurt, have a fear of injury?
Randall Cunningham: I've been so blessed all my career, and I thought, Well, when is it going to happen? Then, oops! It happened. I almost broke down doing an interview after the game. I didn't cry, but I had to stop talking.
SI: Were you worried or at least concerned before going into surgery?
RC: The night before, I worried through the night, not about [the injury but] thinking, Man, I'm going to have surgery tomorrow. It was weird. The doctor assured me that I'd be 100 percent, but, you know, there are people who have surgery and come out vegetables. I was just praying to God that I'd come out successfully.
SI: When you were on Arsenio Hall's show after that, watching clips of yourself doing all those acrobatic feats on the field, your face had a look of wonder and worry—worry that you might never be able to do those things again.
RC: I know what you mean. I was thinking to myself, It's going to be a lot of hard work to bring this knee back. How long is it going to take? I'm reminiscing about the plays that we created, and that's what I enjoyed doing—going out and having fun with it and allowing other people to go, "Ooooh, wow!"
SI: You once said you amaze even yourself. It was about that play against the Buffalo Bills' Bruce Smith a year ago. [On the play, Cunningham eluded Smith's sack attempt in the Eagle end zone, scrambled left, twisted around and threw a 54-yard pass to Fred Barnett, who completed the 95-yard touch-downplay—longest in the league last year.]
RC: The question was asked—"On these plays, do you amaze yourself?" What am I supposed to say? Of course I amaze myself. When I create a play that people think is an amazing play, it's a gift from God. I amaze myself because it's not like I plan to do these things. It's by instinct. Then people say, Oh, he has an ego problem. He amazes himself.
Let them get in my spot, and ask themselves the same question. If I had said, "No, I don't amaze myself, I expect myself to do that"—well, then I'd be the cockiest person on earth. But I tell it like it is, and I don't expect those kinds of [amazing] things to come from me.