Robbins, who was a Pro Bowl center last season, had both his career and life taking a downward spiral after his well-publicized disappearance on the eve of Super Bowl Sunday. Robbins will return to the Oakland starting lineup with even his harshest critics welcoming him Sunday against San Diego.
The 29-year old Robbins suffers from both bipolar disorder and alcoholism. He went AWOL and was dismissed from the team just before the game. Robbins stayed at the Betty Ford Center; he has rebuilt his marriage, his mental health and now his football career.
Robbins then underwent knee surgery in May and joined the Raiders for their June minicamp. He had no guarantee of his roster spot, let alone starting job. Robbins played little in the exhibition season and has watched from the sideline as the Raiders have struggled in the regular season. Adam Treu started in place of Robbins in the Super Bowl while Matt Stinchcomb started the first three games.
"I didn't feel I was ready until last week," Robbins said Thursday. "I had four practices in a row where I didn't have pain. The swelling was real limited. I was able to plant. I was able basically able to hold off the big defensive lineman better. I know I can make a difference on the field. The level of play from tackle to tackle can be better. I think I can do nothing but help that and help the communication."
Left guard Frank Middleton and right guard Mo Collins were two of Robbins most outspoken critics after the Raiders 48-21 loss to Tampa Bay in the Super Bowl. Both individuals, however, have shown more compassion toward Robbins.
"He's pushed through it," Collins said. "He's been through a lot of adversity. A lot of guys, including myself, turned against him. We didn't listen to the facts and he had a problem. He came to work everyday and he's ready to go."
Added Middleton: "It's a good thing. The dude worked hard. They gave him a couple of goals to reach, to get his knee better, lose a little weight and get focused and I think he's ready. But only time will tell."
Robbins also indicated that, contrary to what some may view on the surface, his teammates have supported him.
"They've supported me the whole time," Robbins said. "That's definitely been a key for me in being able to complete this comeback. … I knew when this thing happened that those guys were disappointed in obviously me but also in what happened that Sunday. Two negatives don't equal anything positive. They were upset and I understand that. They've been key as far as having my back even though it didn't look like it from the outside."
The Raiders have played poorly in their last four meaningful games. Coincidently, the last time Oakland looked like a Super Bowl contender, Robbins was in the starting lineup. That game was the Raiders 41-24 win over Tennessee in the AFC Title Game.
While it might be unrealistic to expect Robbins to look like a Pro Bowler in his first start, the Raiders are counting his insertion into the starting lineup to help spark an offense that suddenly looks mediocre at best.
"I truly hope that BRob comes in and (quarterback Rich) Gannon gets his swagger back and settle down and get ready to play because to be honest he hasn't played the same since BRob left the starting lineup at the start of the Super Bowl," Middleton said. "So hopefully those two guys get back together and our offense gets clicking again."Vince D'Adamo can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com