One word among all others best suits Dusty Dvoracek: rehabilitation.
And after news leaked Monday that the Chicago Bears defensive tackle will miss yet another season due to injury, the word will continue to fit. But Dvoracek’s rehabilitation has surpassed that of just a torn biceps and knee injuries.
A lot of people rooted against Dvoracek.
Much like people will root against Michael Vick.
He was a brute. A raged bully. Exactly what you want from a defensive tackle.
Problem for Dvoracek, he failed to contain that aggression to just the field.
In college, he was slapped with three assault complaints, put a buddy in the ICU for five days and kicked off the Oklahoma football team.
His mere mention invoked this from a newspaper reporter:
“In a state remembered for the Dust Bowl, Dusty Dvoracek’s name is dirt.”
America is the supposed Land of Second Chances. (Though, if you ask me, Australia stakes a better claim to that title. You know, seeing as the country was partly founded as a penal colony.)
America isn’t a Land of Second Chances. It’s a land of blindly overlooking indiscretion for the sake of the talented. You can get a third or fourth chance if you’d like.
Like Vick and countless other athletes, Dvoracek got a second chance – a lifeline. However, his was perhaps unlike any passed out before.
An honor roll student and team captain, he was kicked off the Sooners football team after a drunken bar fight left his childhood buddy in intensive care. Bob Stoops reinstated Dvoracek after he underwent anger management and alcohol-related counseling. Dvoracek went through a six-week rehab program under the guidance of former OU and NFL lineman Jim Riley, himself a recovered alcoholic.
Dvoracek was granted a fifth year of eligibility via a medical redshirt because of alcohol abuse. That’s right. Since 1989, the NCAA lists alcoholism in their by-laws as a possible cause for a medical waiver. It is believed Dvoracek’s case was the first to use it, but because of confidentiality laws, this can’t be verified.
It was a decision that shocked and enraged many a college football fan. “How can you reward a drunk bully with another year of college football when guys are denied extra years with ‘real’ injuries and hardships!?”
Dvoracek finished his OU career as a two-time consensus first-team All-Big 12 performer and was taken in third round by Chicago in 2006. He didn’t shy away from the Chicago media. He told them of his story. Told them he used to be an alcoholic and angry kid. He said he never touched the booze again. He was rehabilitated.
Unfortunately, the story doesn’t have a happy ending.
Always counted on being a contributor on the Bears defensive line, Dvoracek will spend the 2009 season much like he did the three previous campaigns – on the sidelines.
The fourth-year defensive tackle left Saturday’s preseason game against the New York Giants with a right knee injury. After the game, Dvoracek’s knee was wrapped in ice. He told reporters he was “fine.”
Anyone aware of the player’s injury history, knew he was anything but.
Having played just 13 career games, Dusty had ended each of his three NFL campaigns on injured reserve.
As a rookie, he underwent foot surgery and missed the entire season.
He began his sophomore campaign as the team’s starter and in the 2007 season opener (his first pro start) he tore the ACL in his left knee and was out for the rest of the year. He rebounded to start 12 games for the Bears last season, but in the 12th contest, he tore his biceps and was shelved yet again.
The Bears kept Dvoracek around because he’s talented, plays a position you can never have enough depth at and he’s a high-motor, high-character player.
That’s right, a high-character guy.
Shocking for a guy many had written off as just another neanderthal.
There were no publicized relapses. While headlines screamed about another Bears’ defensive lineman and his home security system (a personal arsenal), Dvoracek kept his pledge, and the Bears kept him around.
The severity of the latest injury may be career-ending. It more than likely has closed the book on Dvoracek’s Chicago chapter. His contract is up and despite being blindly loyal to high-character, injury-riddled guys (see Brown, Mike), the Bears more than likely will let Dvoracek walk.
It’s sad because here was a guy, who by all accounts, had righted his wrong. He had gotten the help he needed and kept his nose clean. For every Pacman Jones and Odell Thurman there are past transgressors who right the ship. Guys who learn their lesson, and we rarely hear about them because they’re doing what they’re supposed to be – staying out of the news.
I know as a Chicago sports fan I’m supposed to hate fellas named Dusty (see Baker, Dusty), but here’s hoping for the best on Dusty Dvoracek’s latest rehabilitation, whether it’s with the Bears or not.