Raiders' Robbins crisis continues

Sober again after his losing bout with tequila in Tijuana caused by another lapse of sanity, Barret Robbins has returned to play center for the Oakland Raiders. You might recall Robbins as the misguided, bulky individual who ran afoul of alcohol and his inner demons in the days prior to the Raiders' 48-21 Super Bowl loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Robbins had gone off his medication for bipolar disorder and depression. He apparently suffers from a chemical imbalance in the brain.

Subsequently, quite possibly consequently, Robbins got stinking drunk.

He was absent without leave, partying south of the border instead of studying film of Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks. He showed up at the team hotel in a disheveled, disoriented state and was summarily, rightfully dismissed from duty by coach Bill Callahan. The Raiders got crushed without Robbins, who created a major distraction and became a public spectacle.

Many of his teammates, particularly fellow offensive linemen Frank Middleton and Mo Collins, were so critical of Robbins' behavior that it's hard to imagine this burning bridge ever being doused. Yet, there was Robbins at the Raiders' recent minicamp.

He's back on his medication. He has undergone countless therapy sessions. He spent a month at the Betty Ford Center to combat his alcoholism and claims he hasn't drank a drop since the Super Bowl debacle. Will his teammates accept him and ever be able to count on him again?

That's an undetermined, crucial issue as team chemistry is at the heart of team sports. Here's someone who has apologized, appears genuinely contrite, but screwed up so royally that what happened remains a real problem for the Raiders to confront.

Regaining the trust of his teammates is Robbins' charge. The coaching staff can't force them to feel sympathy, which would only further disrupt the locker room.

Placing him behind Adam Treu on the depth chart is the proper first step.

"The healing process has begun," Robbins told reporters at the Raiders' training complex. "We have a ways to go. I don't want to be a distraction to this team, any more than I have been."

When Robbins was banished from the team hotel, he didn't even watch the game, which was punctuated by breakdowns in pass protection and interceptions by Rich Gannon. Afterward, Middleton and Collins ripped Robbins unmercifully. Although they've softened their stance somewhat in light of revelations about Robbins' mental-health issues, it's still hard to picture them working alongside Robbins again.

Football is such an intense environment, and respect is at the core of the game.

If the Raiders don't respect Robbins, how can they coexist?

It's not something you'll find addressed in a coaching manual. This is a situation that delves into areas beyond the toughness measured by being able to withstand pain.

This is about being able to tolerate someone who let the team down.

That has to include Robbins forgiving himself for failing to answer the bell for the highest-profile kickoff of them all.

"That's big," Robbins said. "I'm getting there. I pray that will happen."

Aaron Wilson writes for The Carroll County Times.


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