Ryan Otten feared death after staph infection at the Senior Bowl


Ryan Otten is a tight end and NFL draft prospect from San Jose State who became so sick from a staph infection at the Senior Bowl that he thought he was going to die.

Otten told the Sacramento Bee that a small cut on his middle finger during Senior Bowl practice week turned into a grotesque, swollen mess thanks to a staph infection, but he refused to stop working toward his dream of getting to the NFL.

“I felt like it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be out there at the Senior Bowl, and I wanted to try to battle through it,” he said. “Things are going to happen – getting sick or getting nicked. I wanted to show I was one of those guys who would keep grinding.”

Fighting through it might not have been the right move: He was so sick from the infection that he told his mother he was afraid he was going to die, and he was hospitalized for two days in Alabama immediately after the Senior Bowl.

“Oh, man, this is not good,” Otten said he was thinking as he sat in the hospital. “I hope I don’t lose an arm or my hand or fingers or something. When they told me it was a staph infection, I knew it was bad stuff.”

Otten felt well enough after two days in the Alabama hospital that doctors there told him he could fly home to California, but when he got home the hospital in Alabama told him his blood work showed the infection was even more serious than they had thought, and he needed to get to the hospital immediately. He was then hospitalized for two more days in California, and although he is now home, he has to go back to the hospital every day for intravenous antibiotic treatment.

Senior Bowl executive director Phil Savage, the former Browns general manager, said this story will tell NFL teams that Otten is a tough kid.

“I think he’ll get a lot of credit for that,” Savage said. “There’s no question that life in the NFL is not easy. It’s a long, grueling season, and teams definitely take a player’s temperament and toughness into consideration.”

Otten probably would have preferred to prove his toughness in a way that didn’t include spending four nights in the hospital.