Here’s the problem facing Clint Sintim this summer. How does a player try to carve out a place for himself on a roster if he isn’t able to even get on the field to practice?
“That’s a good question,” Sintim said yesterday with the thoughtfulness of a man who has ruminated over the idea for some time and not been able to solve the riddle. “To be honest, I think the most important thing for me is to get healthy. I think if I can get healthy everything will kind of fall into place the way it should. Obviously I’d love to be here, but I think the best thing for me to do is to get healthy. Once I get healthy then other decisions can be made. But if I’m not healthy there’s no decisions that I’m really going to be making.”
Sintim tore his ACL late in the 2010 season and was an inspiring comeback story last summer. He looked okay in camp and played in the preseason games. But in the final preseason game he suffered a devastating knee injury. Literally shredding the joint. Patella tendon. The whole deal.
“It was a traumatic injury, especially that it was twice,” he said of the two injuries within eight months of each other. “But that was about 11 months ago. Really all I’ve been doing now is rehabbing and trying to get back on the right track … I’m day by day. It’s been a little over 11 months. It’s been a long haul but I’ve been working out pretty hard and I feel good about where I’m at.”
He’s still not on the football field, though. He’s on the PUP list. He’s not allowed to practice. And even if he could, he’d probably be near the bottom on a deep list of linebackers that are all fighting for roster spots.
The other three guys on the PUP list all have an eye on returning, either for the start of the regular season or sometime shortly afterwards. Sintim, though, may be languishing in this area between an NFL active roster and being waived for the rest of the preseason. It's a football purgatory. PUP-atory.
Sintim is also in the last year of his rookie contract. It’s becoming clear that if he does have a future in the NFL – and he believes he does – that it will likely not be with the team that drafted him in the second round in 2009.
“I don’t have any expectations other than being healthy eventually,” he said. “I’m pretty confident that given enough time I’ll be able to perform to where I was, if not better. Whatever happens I’m prepared to deal with it but I’m optimistic and I’m excited about the opportunity to get better every day.”
That’s how Sintim lists himself: Day to day. One day to day at a time. The problem is that each day brings him closer to the start of the season. And each day he’s not on the field pushes him further away from a spot on this or any other team.
Is it hard to live like that?
“At first it is, but I’m so caught up in my routine now that this is part of my daily life now,” he said. “Once it has become part of your daily routine and your daily life, it’s not hard anymore. The hard part is over with, now it’s about proving to myself more than anybody that I’m doing what I need to do and I’ll be right.
“I’m better than I was yesterday,” Sintim added. “And if you asked me yesterday, I would have told you the same thing.”
One day soon, the answer will change. For the better or worse.
Sintim, by the way, said that he felt one of the reasons he reinjured himself last summer was that he rushed back from his original injury.
“I was healthy and I could have participated,” he said of the 2011 preseason. “But the volume of work that I put myself through ultimately set me back. But no point in crying over spilled milk. I’m optimistic, I’m excited and I’m encouraged.”