When Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck shockingly over the weekend, one thing really seemed to stick out: The quarterback was leaving football because he was tired of that came with his injuries.
In the immediate aftermath of his retirement announcement, hundreds of Colts fans and critics came out and questioned Luck’s toughness, while also wondering if he was a coward for ditching his team. One person who definitely didn’t call out Luck is Rich Ohrnberger, and that’s because the former NFL offensive lineman knows exactly what the 29-year-old has been going through.
If you’re wondering what kind of pain it would take for a player to quit football during the prime of his career, Ohrnberger answered that question on Twitter with a pretty harrowing retirement story.
Ohrnberger started his career with the Patriots in 2009 after New England selected him during the fourth round of the NFL Draft. After spending three seasons on Tom Brady’s offensive line, Ohrnberger moved on to Arizona in 2012 before signing with the Chargers for the final two years of his career, which is where this story picks up.
“My final season was 2014, I was playing for the Chargers and I was a MESS,” Ohrnberger wrote. “I had been dealing with severe back pain for two years, and it was coming to a head. I became the starting center during a Week 1 game in Arizona, by Week 3 in Buffalo I was very debilitated.”
Since it’s hard to imagine what exactly someone means when they say they’re “very debilitated,” Ohrnberger gave the inside details on how bad things had gotten for him.
“My mornings began at 4:30 a.m. crawling from my bed to the bathtub, my pregnant wife would help me get in the tub, and I would soak and stretch until I was able to walk,” Ohrnberger wrote. “I’d then go to the facility and do exercises to strengthen my back, but the pain was unrelenting.”
If that sounds painful, just wait until you read what he has to say next.
“It was determined that I would need spinal surgery, but I could continue playing as long as the symptoms were manageable,” Ohrnberger wrote. “Throughout the season I received five or six epidural injections. Some were less than two weeks apart. I would constantly fantasize about that surgery.”
During the 2014 season, the pain was so bad for Ohrnberger that he couldn’t even sleep. If that sounds familiar that was the same pain the Rob Gronkowski.
Like Gronkowski, the sleep deprivation on top of the injuries made life miserable for Ohrnberger (Gronk and Ohrnberger were actually teammates for two seasons in New England).
“I wasn’t sleeping because I couldn’t find a comfortable position to alleviate the pain,” Ohrnberger said. “I was miserable because of the pain. I was afraid because I wondered if the pain would ever go away but I kept playing. I didn’t want to let down my family, coaches, teammates, or myself.”
Although Ohrnberger did play in eight games in 2014, his season came to an end in November, when he suffered an ankle injury against the Raiders. At that point, Ohrnberger’s health had basically reached rock bottom.
“It was time to make some difficult decisions,” Ohrnberger wrote. “I was losing strength in my right leg. My leg was also ‘blanking out’ or becoming momentarily paralyzed, sometimes while I was walking or running (I’d hit the ground every time). I was told my loss of strength could be forever.”
In the end, Ohrnberger decided to undergo back surgery, and after that, he would never play in the NFL again. After attending a tryout with the Lions during the 2015 season, but not getting signed, Ohrnberger made the decision to retire while sitting at a bar in Detroit.
Ohrnberger then listed all the serious injuries that he had to deal with in his NFL career, which basically reads like something off of WedMD.
Ohrnberger told his story as a way to defend Luck from all his critics.
Basically, what Ohrnberger is saying is that no one should judge an NFL player for retiring due to the pain of the game, because it’s almost impossible to imagine what kind of physical pain these guys have been through.