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  1. #1
    ArchuletaFan31 is offline Registered User
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    Herniated disk affected performance, psyche

    Herniated disk affected performance, psyche


    Given his longtime nickname, Arch, strong safety Adam Archuleta couldn't have handpicked a more fitting NFL city in which to ply his trade. Just a few blocks from the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, after all, the Gateway Arch rises majestically from the banks of the Mississippi River.

    So, the guy named Arch is playing for the Rams, in the city whose most familiar edifice is architect Eero Saarinen's breathtaking, stainless steel curve. The public relations possibilities are seemingly limitless, right? Even a novice marketing maven could pose Arch at the top of the Arch, in a panoramic shot, and turn it into a successful photo op.

    Except that in a torturous 2004 season, one in which he could barely bend over to tie his shoes without wincing, Archuleta could hardly, well, arch his back sufficiently to see the observation perch of the 630-foot landmark. The pose most often struck by Archuleta last season, alas, was one in which his hand was reaching for his balky back.

    And in which he was left, at times, grabbing at air after whiffing on a tackle attempt.



    'How bad was it?' said Archuleta earlier this week from Los Angeles, where he stopped in for the latest session with Dr. Ed Wagner, his noted back specialist. 'Well, cut me in half, honestly, because I was like half a man last year. It's no secret, with the way that I have always trained, that my body is my business. Well, I'll tell you what, my business just about went bust last year. How's that for bad?'



    Despite appearing in all 16 games and starting all but two of them, and finishing second on the team with 123 tackles, Archuleta clearly struggled in '04. The 2001 first-round choice, who had established a reputation as one of the NFL's biggest hitters during his first three seasons in the league, was miserable. And, at times, so was his performance, despite his seemingly solid numbers.

    What was originally thought to be a bulging disk in his back, a problem that surfaced as early as the first regular-season game, was actually a more serious herniated disk. The injury, from which Archuleta didn't gain even a modicum of relief until two late-season cortisone injections marginally eased his pain, dramatically affected his play and, almost as critical, his psyche.

    Anyone who knows Archuleta a former walk-on at Arizona State who starred at weakside linebacker and won Pac-10 defensive player of the year honors as a senior in 2000 can appreciate to some degree the significance of Archuleta's psyche. A self-made player, whose grueling workout regimen was made legendary in part by feature pieces on ESPN and in ESPN The Magazine, the veteran treats his body like a temple.

    But with the herniated disk throughout 2004 and a second disk affected to a lesser extent, Archuleta discovered he didn't have a prayer of playing up to his typical standards.

    By the fifth game of the season, when he stepped up into the B-gap hole to tackle Seahawks tailback Shaun Alexander but felt no power and drive from his legs, Archuleta knew something was drastically wrong. By a Dec. 12 home loss to Carolina, he had plummeted, physically and emotionally, to an all-time low.

    'I remember looking at the stat sheet and, for the first time in my career, at any level, I had no tackles. I mean zero, man, nothing,' Archuleta recalled. 'And the scary part was that I really didn't care at all. I wasn't the least bit upset. At that point, I was just more concerned with surviving, being able to walk without hurting every step, than I was with playing well. It was absolutely the worst time ever. After a few days, my pride kicked in again, and I was pretty angry at myself. But I never want to feel that way again. I never want my pride in myself to take that kind of hit again.'

    Thanks to Archuleta's rigorous treatment program this offseason, his emotional armor likely won't be dented so severely again. The routine he began in April hasn't yet returned him to spry condition but has immeasurably improved his mobility and reduced his stiffness.

    Coincidentally, when the Rams were preparing to cut ties to starting right offensive tackle Kyle Turley because of his lingering back woes, Archuleta was at last weekend's mandatory mini-camp, demonstrating to coaches and team officials that they could finally exhale over concerns about his viability for the 2005 season. Archuleta, who allowed that the sessions represented three days of positive reinforcement, breathed much easier, too.

    Archuleta was limited in a few elements, but his overall movement skills were much better than last season and drew solid reviews, along with much relief from coaches. 'A lot better,' coach Mike Martz noted. One assistant termed the performance 'really encouraging, a big weight off our backs.' Privately, the Rams' staff was even more pumped about Archuleta and the possibilities for 2005 than it indicated publicly.

    'You could see in Arch's eyes that he's getting it back,' weakside linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa said. 'He's starting to feel [frisky] again.'



    Credit the improvement to hard work, not surprisingly. Archuleta characteristically eschewed surgery and opted for inventiveness over an incision. He enlisted Wagner to treat his back without lifting a scalpel. The man he has termed his 'soft-tissue guy,' Phoenix-based therapist Dave Matthews, went to work on him. And Archuleta counted on his longtime workout guru, Jay Schroeder, the man who turned him into a weight-room fanatic, to devise a program for him.

    The program is a mix of components as disparate as Pilates and physical therapy, along with all manner of poking and probing and stretching. The result: To this point, at least, the men charged with putting Humpty Dumpty back together again seem to have most of the pieces glued back into place.

    Archuleta is beyond optimistic that he will return to health, to the form of his first three NFL seasons, and even ratchet things up a notch.

    'Anytime they start cutting into your spine, well, you're rolling the dice at that point,' Archuleta said. 'I'm confident in the people around me. I figured putting my faith in them was a lot better than a crap shoot. So far, so good, and I think it's only going to keep getting better. From a football standpoint, too, I feel like I'm going to be able to do a lot more. That the coaches have a lot more planned for me.'

    Noted throughout his career as an 'in the box' safety, one who played close to the line of scrimmage and was charged more with making a lot of tackles than with generating big plays, Archuleta is likely to have his responsibilities expanded in 2005. Because of the makeup of the St. Louis secondary in the past, and the schemes played, Archuleta's 'ball skills' have gone largely untapped.

    His coverage statistics, just two interceptions and 20 passes defended in four seasons, reflect the dearth of opportunities Archuleta has had in coverage situations. Some of his detractors contend Archuleta is deficient in coverage. Neither he nor the Rams' coaches agree with that assessment, and assuming Archuleta's back problems are really behind him, observers will see him more off the line of scrimmage in '05. There is a chance, in fact, that Archuleta could line up at the more liberating free safety spot.

    Toward that end, Archuleta has worked hard on his coverage techniques. He has Pro Bowl-caliber skills but needs to make more big open-field plays to earn an all-expenses-paid trip to Hawaii. Then again, getting his hands on the ball more, Archuleta said, won't mean he doesn't want to hit just as much as in the past. Finesse plays, he emphasized, won't ever replace his feistiness.

    'The coverage aspect,' said Archuleta, who has averaged 113.5 tackles in four seasons, 'is really an undeveloped part of the game for me. But it's something I'm really looking forward to doing. But you get a lot of chances to hit people when you're backed off in the secondary, too. You look at [Dallas safety] Roy Williams or a guy like [John] Lynch all these years. Those big hits they make, the ones that bring people out of their seats, they come deep in the secondary, where you have a chance to show range and get to the ball. That's the kind of hits I'm ready to make and, unlike last year, I can make them now.'

    Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com
    Last edited by ArchuletaFan31; -06-08-2005 at 08:25 PM.


  2. #2
    psycho9985's Avatar
    psycho9985 is offline Registered User
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    Re: Herniated disk affected performance, psyche

    I think Adam will be fine physically,but its the psyche that might give him some problems,But I'm sure he'll bounce back.
    My heart beats crazy and my blood runs wild

  3. #3
    HUbison's Avatar
    HUbison is offline Superbowl MVP
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    Re: Herniated disk affected performance, psyche

    If every word of it is true, this is a very encouraging article. I just hope it's not a late spring pep talk. Back problems can linger, and if Arch is 100% recovered, I'll be relieved, but very very surprised.
    "Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." --- Hesiod

  4. #4
    gap Guest

    Re: Herniated disk affected performance, psyche

    I almost didn't read this because I thought it was going to be a 'poor kyle turley' article.

    As it turns out, it is an article that maybe kyle should read and learn from. :tough:

    gap

  5. #5
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    thoey is offline Registered User
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    Re: Herniated disk affected performance, psyche

    I agree 100% with HUBisons response. I hope he is back. From someone who has dealt with back problems myself and with my spouse, I know they just don't go away.

    Noted throughout his career as an 'in the box' safety, one who played close to the line of scrimmage and was charged more with making a lot of tackles than with generating big plays, Archuleta is likely to have his responsibilities expanded in 2005. Because of the makeup of the St. Louis secondary in the past, and the schemes played, Archuleta's 'ball skills' have gone largely untapped.

    His coverage statistics, just two interceptions and 20 passes defended in four seasons, reflect the dearth of opportunities Archuleta has had in coverage situations. Some of his detractors contend Archuleta is deficient in coverage. Neither he nor the Rams' coaches agree with that assessment, and assuming Archuleta's back problems are really behind him, observers will see him more off the line of scrimmage in '05. There is a chance, in fact, that Archuleta could line up at the more liberating free safety spot.
    Opportunities? Here I thought that just wasn't his strong skill. Call me one of those detractors, but show me...
    This space for rent...

  6. #6
    RealRam's Avatar
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    Re: Herniated disk affected performance, psyche

    Excellent read, ArchuletaFan31.

    I've always had faith in AA, ever since he arrived as a Rams rookie. I wish him the very best in terms of recuperation for this season -- should be the turning point in his young career.

    He could make a significant impact towards improving the Rams D for 2005.

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