Bucs safety knows what Robbins is going through

Bucs safety John Howell tells ESPN of a training camp episode that helps him relate to Raiders' center Barret Robbins.


It turns out that Oakland Raiders center Barret Robbins was not the only one in San Diego suffering from internal issues.

            Robbins spoke for the first time Wednesday to ESPN's Andrea Kremer regarding his, at the time mysterious, disappearance on Super Bowl weekend, which has been well chronicled since that time. Robbins, who then spoke to a group of Bay Area reporters at the Raiders' minicamp Thursday, was later diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

            Tampa Bay, which defeated the Raiders 48-21 in the Super Bowl, has a player who can relate to Robbins' experience. Little known Buccaneer safety John Howell, a third-year player from Colorado State, revealed such during an interview with ESPN's Eric Adelson on Sunday's edition of SportsCenter.

            "That was one inch from being me," Howell said. "I felt real bad for him (Robbins)."

            Howell indicated that he spent the night wide-awake and in the state of panic the night before the Bucs opened training camp last July. Howell recalled phoning his wife, Laura, who was at 60,000 acre cattle ranch in Nebraska.

            "My whole attitude was, I don't love football," Howell said. "It's not what I thought it would be. Everything I dreamed of doing since I was four-years old turned out to be a bust. I belong back home. I belong in Nebraska."

            At 6 a.m., Howell called head coach Jon Gruden, former Raiders head man.

"I thought he was going to blow up and be like, ‘No, man. You stay here or you're off the team. You're done.'" Howell said. "The reaction I got from him was something I'll never forget."

            Gruden did not greet Howell with his trademark sideline scowl.

"I told him, stay in touch with me," Gruden said. "Let me know what's going on. Get it solved. Take your time. We're here for you. I just wanted to let him know I supported him completely and to take his time and think through these issues. When you do come back, be ready for me to get after you're a-- and coach you because we need you."

Howell agreed to seek help and was diagnosed with clinical depression. He has since been taking anti-depressants while undergoing therapy. Two weeks into training camp, Howell wanted to return to the team but feared facing his teammates. His wife drove him to training camp.

            "The first person I see when I step on the facility was No. 99, Warren Sapp," Howell said. "What he did was something I'll never forget. He walked up to me and all 300 pounds gave me a hug and he said, ‘Hey, it's good to have you back.'"

            Howell then played in every game last season, including the Super Bowl. While Robbins faces an uncertain future with Oakland, Howell continues to empathize with Robbins.

            "It's a crippling feeling," Howell said. "You feel like you can't move, you don't want to move. You don't want to do anything but feel bad."


Vince D'Adamo can be reached via e-mail at vdad7@yahoo.com

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