- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 12, 2004

The second I planted my foot on Sunday night, I knew something wasn’t right.

Instead of the normal response, the snap-like action and quick angle to the ball carrier I’m used to, I heard the snap, crackle and pop that should come from your bowl of Rice Krispies, not your right knee.

At this point, clutching my knee and waiting, I could only hope that I might get lucky. Maybe it would just be a sprain or something I could simply pop back into place, like a button that falls off a shirt.

Then reality set in under the bright lights at FedEx Field that almost seemed to be staring right back at me. I had just torn my ACL, and my season had come to an abrupt end.

The first objective with a major injury in the NFL is acceptance. The cliche “injuries are a part of the game” is true, but for it to happen to yourself? No way.

Come on, buddy, let’s be real: It stinks. I’ll be the first to admit it. But it happened, and now you deal with it.

All the wondering and second-guessing on the play aren’t going to make any injury better, or make it go away overnight. You just have to deal with it.

I guess the second objective is to set easy goals to reach in rehab. I’m not going to be able to cover Jeremy Shockey on a “7-route” tomorrow.

The best advice I received on this injury was from my mom. She just told me to get through Monday and then take on Tuesday. Day to day, this is how I’m going to get back into this thing. No magic potions or vitamins cure ACL tears (though if you do find any let me know). We have an unbelievable medical staff at Redskin Park, second to none. I am positive they will get me back where I belong.

The next objective is to stay positive. I think this is the hardest thing to do with any injury, no matter how serious it is, though I have had so many people pick up my spirits the past few days. My teammates have been unbelievable, as have my coaches. It’s times like this you realize you are part of a special organization and will be treated almost the same way you would by your own family.

Times of adversity are when you find out what type of person you really are. You basically only have two options: go down in flames, or rise up and fix it. I prefer the latter, and I can’t wait to start.

I can’t wait until that next time comes when I walk out onto that field. I already have visualized the scene over and over in my head. I am determined to get back on that field with the rest of my Redskins pals, and it is going to be sweet. Until that time comes, I will have to watch and aid my teammates any way I can.

This team is full of heart. We never quit, and we never go down without a fight. We have players on this team who would make anyone proud. They play each snap as hard as the first one. I will draw strength for my own rehabilitation by watching them play with the desire and passion they have.

I’ve been on other teams before, but to be on a team with unity and respect for one another like this is special. It is an honor to be on this team and to be part of this organization.

You’re right — I will not step onto a football field for the rest of the season, and it burns inside me.

But I also know I am part of something that will be great. And that makes me smile, even though my knee tells me not to.

• • •

Ask Matt

Q: Do you prefer to go up against a quick scatback or a big, power runner?

A: I like the power backs. They strap it up and run right at you, no tricks involved.

Q: Who’s going to win the Big Ten this year?

A: Come on, the Iowa Hawkeyes are going to run the table, starting with Ohio State on Saturday. I may be a little biased, though.

Staff writer Mark Zuckerman collaborates with Redskins safety Matt Bowen on this column. It appears every Wednesday. If you have any questions for Matt, e-mail them to bowencolumn@aol.com.

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