“Brett, well, it's been a long time.”
“Sure has Doc. Last was my High School physical.” He touched his gown. “When you you guys going to come up with something better...with these ties in the back...it's all open back here?” He smiled at the doctor.
“Good to see you too Brett. This is a surprise. Don't the Vikings have team doctors, to give you check ups?”
“They do, but it's just...I have to make a decision, and well, I've known you all my life. I need a person I can really trust. Team doctors are paid by the team owners. I'd like you to check me over. Second opinion. Nothing fancy, just... am I okay to play?”
“Well, I'd be more than happy."
“It's this decision I have to make.”
“Brett, we've all read about it. Should you continue for another year with the Vikings. I do read more than the AMA journal and Pfizer pamphlets on E.D.”
“I know I can handle it for a few more seasons, but one missed assignment and I got a defensive tackle blind siding me. Goes through my head sometimes at night.”
“A check up? No problem. Okay, follow my finger.” Brett's eyes followed his finger, right, left, then to the tip of his nose, a big check on the Doc's clip board.
“Okay,” said the doctor. “So you want to know if you're healthy enough to play? Well, you know I'm going to err on the side of caution. I certainly don't want to see you get hurt. You've played for how long, almost 20 years.
“19 seasons.” said Brett.
“And the average pro player?”
“They average maybe three to four years.”
The doctor pulled out a tongue depressor, “Open wide,” and poked around in Brett's mouth. “Say ahhh.”
“So you've been playing all that time without a major physical problem. The human body begins to break down...You're getting old Brett, old for pro sports. You're right about getting hit. It could cause a problem. How many concussions have you had?”
“Yeah, I know. Steve Young had to quit, middle of his career. I got hit in one game, blacked out, then threw a TD pass, and still don't remember doing it. Yeah, I've thought about that too. It's part of the game, I guess.”
“Paper said you made a call to see if you could get LT to play in Minnesota. My thought was you wanted to play again, and with him go for another Super Bowl. That about right?”
“He was available, and I was thinking together on the same team, we could give it one more try. Adrian has that fumble problem. Then LT goes and signs with the Jets. Said he was more familiar with the offense there, with Sanchez. Whatever. Took less money.” He shook his head. “I think it was me. He wanted to know where I stood. Would I be playing with the Viks next year. What should I do Doc. Me and LT been good, you know?”
He placed his stethoscope on Brett's back. “Deep breath.” Bret breathed deeply.
“Another season,” said Brett, “means training camp. Damn. But I could wait and decided to come back after training camp is over. I could do that.” They both looked at each other.
“But it's pro football. Without training camp, wouldn't that just be asking for it?”
“They don't make it hard on me. They know me. But you're right, I can't just walk on the field in street shoes. Yeah, I have to get into shape, but I know how it's done. I've been doing this for so long.”
“I've read that Joe Montana thinks you'll be back. He think it comes down to how you want to go out. Not remembered for that interception, right near the end of that playoff game.” The Doctor put the stethoscope on Brett's chest. “Breath in.” Brett breathed in.
“Damn pass. Running...passing back across like that. It was ugly. I knew it soon as I threw it. Cost us a trip to the Superbowl. Came down to that...but I don't know. I was the one got them there, really. How do I go back to what I was like ten years ago, Doc?” Brett put his head down.
“Heart sounds real good. Any major aches or pains?
”Only my shoulder, you can see the scars, and my left ankle acts up when it gets cold, which is a lot in Minneapolis. For forty, I guess I feel okay.”
“Didn't George Blanda play until he was...45?”
“He was a kicker some of those years, but yeah. I could maybe try and beak that record?”
“You retired once and then came back with the Jets, right”
“Childress called me. You coming back? You coming back? All he wanted to know. Guess I gotta decided pretty soon. He's afraid that I'll retire again then come back, screw up his plans. Afraid I'll go play for the Broncos, I don't know.” He laughed.
“Okay Brett, Stand up for me. I have to check...” The Doc reached under the gown.
Brett jumped. “Nothing wrong with my Cannolis, Doc.”
“Gotta check, part of my job, turn and cough”
Brett turned his head and coughed. “Nothing wrong, right?”
“Feels okay, you wouldn't want anything to go wrong. Tell me this, what would you do if you didn't play? Matt Millen took over the Detroit team...Lions, right?”
“What else am I good at, Doc? Least I know I can still play.”
The doctor stood back. “Can I be honest here. That's what you want, right? I think it's your ego, Brett. You don't' want Manning to break your records, so you want more time out there to pad your stats.”
“Ego? Where'd that come form? So you're now a psychiatrist? My ego?” Brett eyes opened wide, surprised.
“Come on. Takes an ego to be a professional at anything, and pro football, for 19 seasons, has to be huge. One more shot at the Superbowl?”
Doc touched his knee. “Here, let you leg swing.” He hit it with his toy tomma-hawk. Brett's leg shot out. “Good, now let's see...lie on your stomach on the table, we'll check your back. How about your wife, Deanna, how does she feel about another season?”
Brett rolled over. “We've discussed it a lot. But she says it's still my choice.”
The Doc squeezed high on his back, “How does this feel?”
“Okay,” said Brett.
He squeezed further down. “How about here?”
“DOC, what the hell..?”
“Oppps, sorry. Lets go to your legs.”
“Damn, Doc.” Brett's face turned pink.
“Paper showed her in tears,” said Doc. “You were taking it pretty bad on the field, getting sacked hard. She sure didn't look happy.”
“Yep, that's a problem. She's not a big fan of me going back. But, it's $13 mil I'd be giving up. Go a long way, with the foundation, but...it's not the money.”
“Okay you can sit up. My professional opinion, physically you're fine. Once we get back the results of those other tests, blood the nurse took, we'll know for sure. But you look fine.”
Brett wiggled out of the gown and thew on his shirt.
“But is that really the answer you're looking for? What can I say, you chose football, you gotta be careful...at any age. Lots of things out there you have no control over. The power of those hits, only takes one and well...”
“Thanks doc. You've let me know at least I'm in shape to play. One thing, I do get tired near the end of games...probably why I threw that pass, not enough on it.” Again he put his head down, “That damn pass. That's what people will remember.”
The doctor shook Brett's hand and started for the door, “Wait,” he said. “I'm missing something...something...oh yes. One more thing.” He reached into a box, pulled out a rubber glove and snapped it on. “Sorry, but one more little exam and we'll be all done. You'll just bend over the table.”
Brett looked back over his shoulder at the Doc's finger in the rubber glove. “Oh boy,” he said. “I think I've had enough...for one day...OhhhEEEEEEE!...HELLO!”
There was silence for a few seconds, both looking at the ceiling.
“A-ha...a-haaa...mmmm...Okay,” said the doctor. “All done. Prostate feels fine. NOW you're good to go.”
“So,” said Brett, taking a deep breath. “What do you think? Should I play next year?”
The doctor leaned back against the table, and folded his arms.
“What do I do if I don't play? You know I'm no toastmaster. But I suppose...I could learn. Hell, if Bradshaw can do it.” Brett smiled. “Have you seen ten ton Tony Siragusa, wandering around on the field talking to players. Quarterbacks are way smarter than defensive tackles. A lot smarter. Sure I could do that...I suppose...but...I don't know.”
All reports point to Brett coming back, but I think he will retire for good later this summer, enough time for the Vikings to find another QB. Key to his decision: LT going to the Jets, and a long talk with his wife.
That's my take. What do you think? Has Brett had enough?