JERSEY CITY - At first, Michael Robinson thought he was coming down with a virus. His body would shake with the chills, and then he would start sweating. But when his urine turned dark red, he knew he had to get back to the hospital.
The Seahawks' starting fullback in Super Bowl XLVIII looked to be the picture of health Monday when he met with reporters at the team's hotel. Five months ago, however, Robinson suffered an allergic reaction so severe that he said it nearly sent him into kidney and liver failure. The episode, which happened right after the team's second preseason game, against Denver, caused him to drop more than 30 pounds and led to his being hospitalized three times.
"The low point came the third time I went to the hospital and I was in so much pain, they just started shooting me with morphine,'' said Robinson, whose weight plummeted from 245 to 212 pounds.
It took weeks for doctors to figure out that his body was having a reaction to Indocin, a prescription anti-inflammatory medication, and it was magnified because he had been dehydrated by the flu.
Robinson, an eight-year veteran, had been scheduled to make $2.5 million for the 2013 season. The Seahawks, however, had two younger fullbacks, Derrick Coleman and Spencer Ware, making a lot less, and Robinson was cut on the last day of training camp.
Some players might have been embittered by the experience. Robinson, 30, chalked it up to life in the NFL.
"It was difficult,'' he said. "I realized as the final preseason game was winding down that I wasn't doing enough to keep my job. I understand with my price tag that it was going to be hard to keep me.''
Robinson, who was Seattle's starting fullback the previous three seasons, started to work his way back into playing shape. He said he talked to several teams, including the Giants, but ultimately "it just didn't feel right.''
He started thinking about life after football. A journalism major at Penn State, where he played quarterback, Robinson was exploring some media opportunities when the Seahawks called in late October. Seven games into the season, both their young fullbacks had suffered injuries. They were able to sign Robinson for the veteran's minimum of $840,000, prorated over the nine regular-season games in which he would play.
Even though Coleman, who had been starting, is healthy, Robinson has held on to the job. The Seahawks are a young team, and Robinson has proved to be an important and stabilizing presence in the locker room in their run to Sunday's game against Denver.
"There were probably moments when Michael thought he might not get another chance,'' coach Pete Carroll said. "So when we did come back to him, it was very meaningful for Michael. You can see the emotion come out of Michael. He's the guy that thought, 'Maybe I'll never get this chance again.' Then he comes back to play and he gets to play in the Super Bowl. I totally get it and respect it.''
Robinson cried openly on the field in Seattle last week when the Seahawks clinched a berth in the big game with a win over San Francisco. Perhaps more than anyone else on either team, he understands how special it is to be in the Super Bowl, how special it is to be playing football at all.
"I'm soaking it all in,'' he said, "and I'm going to enjoy every moment.''