Robbins remains optimistic despite obstacles

"The problem is getting me there and getting me acclimated to being out there. The guys have been terrific. For me to be part of this team, I've got to be playing football." -- Oaklamd Raiders center Barret Robbins.

While it is in Oakland Raiders center Barret Robbins' best interest to return to the practice field sooner rather than later, the biggest challenge might be resisting the urge to come back before he is ready.

Robbins already faces the obstacle of winning his teammates' trust back after his well-documented disappearance on Super Bowl weekend. In addition, the Raiders placed him on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list after failing his physical.

Robbins underwent arthroscopic knee surgery in May but the injury is still not entirely healed. While there is no targeted return date, Robbins anticipates that time will not be much longer.

"That's the hard part," Robbins said. "When you come back, you've got to be back. You're committed to being back. I'm just going to feel it out and hopefully I'm able to withstand the pounding."

Robbins made a remarkable comeback last season after missing all but two games in 2001 after tearing the medial collateral and anterior cruciate ligaments in his right knee. Robbins, however, added that the same caused him problems at various times last season.

Robbins had to stay off the knee for six weeks after surgery but he participated in the team's June minicamp. Robbins added that the knee perhaps became inflamed. He arrived in Napa, CA, the site of the Raiders' training camp, Tuesday but felt he needed a couple of more days to have the knee ready.

"I haven't been able to do as much running as I'd like," Robbins said. "I've been on the bike, I feel like Lance Armstrong sometimes. You have to get into a certain amount of football shape. The big part is having my steps under me."

Robbins added that despite the initial harsh reactions from a few teammates regarding his Super Bowl weekend episode, he has mostly been welcomed back.

"The problem is getting me there and getting me acclimated to being out there," Robbins said. "The guys have been terrific. For me to be part of this team, I've got to be playing football."

Both Raider starting tackles, Lincoln Kennedy and Barry Sims, at least outwardly welcome Robbins.

"It's tough to miss practice because of the volume of information we go through each day," Sims said. "You can get behind pretty easily. He's been here a long time. He knows what to do. When he comes back he'll be ready to go. He's a great guy and it's unfortunate that it's been so tough on him."

Added Kennedy: "He's one of us. He's one of my guys. He's an important part of this team. There's no doubt what he has done over the years for us. That can't be overshadowed. When he comes back we'll have a spot for him. It was never a distraction. It happened at an inopportune time. We won't allow it to be a distraction because one person does not make a team. When he's physically able to come back then he can start gaining respect but for the most part I don't think there's too many people that do not respect him."

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


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