Updated: August 12, 2009 at 12:00 am
ENGLEWOOD — Being the backup quarterback for the Denver Broncos fits Chris Simms fine. He’s lucky to be alive, much less playing football.
After the early NFL games had finished Sept. 24, 2006, reports started trickling in that Simms was in dire condition. He unknowingly ruptured his spleen during a game he quarterbacked for Tampa Bay.
Simms said the reports weren’t exaggerated.
“My life was definitely in danger,” said Simms, who had his spleen removed in an emergency surgery. “I lost 9 pints of blood. You only have 14 in your body. If the doctor didn’t say, ‘Let’s go to the hospital,’ or if I hung around the locker room or tried to go home, I don’t know if I would have made it. At least that’s what they told me.”
Simms’ injury is one of the most unusual and disturbing the NFL has seen in a while. He suffered the injury sometime during a physical game against Carolina, but finished the contest. He thought maybe he broke a rib. He couldn’t catch his breath and felt weak but, as he says now, players don’t think about internal injuries during a football game.
“At the end of the fourth quarter, I honestly went through my brain the first time: ‘I might have something seriously wrong with me,’” Simms said. “I couldn’t even stand up, I was so light-headed and out of energy.”
Simms was rushed to the hospital shortly after the game. He spent five days in intensive care.
“That wasn’t exactly the best week of my life,” Simms said.
Until that point, Simms’ career seemed on the upswing. He led Tampa Bay to the playoffs in his third season at age 25. He was the Buccaneers’ starter the following season, but has played in only one regular-season game since his injury.
After the injury, Simms had to get back to a normal daily life, first adjusting to the large scar down the middle of his stomach.
“I couldn’t stand up straight for two months, basically, because of the scar pulling me down,” Simms said.
Playing quarterback seemed far off, and he said he didn’t know if he would play football again. He couldn’t make simple throws for a NFL quarterback, like a 10-yard curl route.
“I was not capable of making throws I could probably make when I was in the sixth grade,” Simms said. “You’re an NFL quarterback, used to driving a Corvette — all of a sudden you’re on a bicycle as far as your arm strength goes.”
He worked his way back. He didn’t play in 2007 and had a messy split with the Buccaneers. He landed in Tennessee and attempted two passes for the Titans last year.
“He’s getting better every day,” Broncos coach Josh McDaniels said. “He works extremely hard, and he is very diligent in the meeting room. He’s come out here and had some really good days and had some days when he has struggled, but that’s training camp.”
Simms said he is elated to feel so good now, and he looks healthy.
“Life’s going in the right direction for me,” he said.