Rich Ohrnberger shares his retirement story

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As Andrew Luck faces criticism in some quarters for retiring abruptly rather than toughing out rehab from his laters injury, an NFL player who found far less fame and fortune in the NFL has offered a good story about why he understands Luck’s decision.

Rich Ohrnberger, an offensive lineman who played in the NFL from 2009 to 2014, wrote a long Twitter thread that explained why walking away is sometimes the only option.

“My final season was 2014, I was playing for the Chargers and I was a MESS,” Ohrnberger wrote. “I had been dealing with severe back pain for 2 years, and it was coming to a head. . . . My mornings began at 4:30AM crawling from my bed to the bathtub, my pregnant wife would help me get in the tub, and I would soak & stretch until I was able to walk. I’d then go to the facility and do exercises to strengthen my back, but the pain was unrelenting.

“It was determined that I would need spinal surgery, but I could continue playing as long as the symptoms were manageable. Throughout the season I received 5 or 6 epidural injections. Some were less than 2 weeks apart. I would constantly fantasize about that surgery. I wasn’t sleeping because I couldn’t find a comfortable position to alleviate the pain. I was miserable because of the pain. I was afraid because I wondered if the pain would ever go away but I kept playing. I didn’t want to let down my family, coaches, teammates, or myself.”

Ohrnberger badly injured his ankle later that season, and ended up on injured reserve. He had the back injury and started to get better, but no one signed him in free agency. He finally made the decision that he was retiring in a Detroit hotel lobby bar after a tryout with the Lions. The toll his career took on his body was significant.

“I’ve had both shoulders operated on, part of a clavicle bone removed, spent a season on IR due to a concussion, ruptured my MCL, and had back surgery. That’s the abbreviated list,” he wrote. “Football is about dealing with pain. It’s unavoidable. But it wears you down.”

With that experience, Ohrnberger understands why Luck chose to walk away, and doesn’t blame him a bit.

12 responses to “Rich Ohrnberger shares his retirement story

  1. Luck offered an insight into the “unrelenting” pain; what he didn’t discuss was the impact of the escalating expectations – from an addled owner who proclaimed his shoulder would allow him to open the 2017 season (and likely was the source of the premature disclosure of Luck’s retirement) to selfish obsessed fans who cared nothing for the pain and mental toll. Luck never explained what he had gone through with the two shoulder surgeries; he took full responsibility for his aggressive rehab that resulted in a second surgery never talking about the trainers and doctors who allowed the program; he never criticized the Colts doctors who still have not fully diagnosed his lower leg pain. Luck never told of the impact of constant shoulder pain on his psyche or why he fled the US for several months. Did he go into hiding to recover from a severe depression or break down as so many other professional athletes have experienced? Was he approaching another episode? That would fully explain the situation. We don’t know and we have no right to pry into the mind of a man who gave so much to the game, the city and the NFL; we can only wish him well and celebrate his incredible skill and courage.

  2. As a huge, huge Colts fan, a big part of me is very sad that Andrew Luck is retiring–not because we will likely have less success this year and may wander in the wilderness for a number of years–but because it was pure joy to watch him play. I’m going to miss that. But Andrew is frankly destined for bigger and better things than simply playing football. It’s his body and his life. He doesn’t owe me anything. Good luck Andrew. We will miss you.

  3. chitowncolt says:
    August 27, 2019 at 9:46 am
    As a huge, huge Colts fan, a big part of me is very sad that Andrew Luck is retiring–not because we will likely have less success this year and may wander in the wilderness for a number of years–but because it was pure joy to watch him play. I’m going to miss that. But Andrew is frankly destined for bigger and better things than simply playing football. It’s his body and his life. He doesn’t owe me anything. Good luck Andrew. We will miss you.
    ————
    I’ll root for Brissett, but I could never pull for such a dirty franchise like the Colts…

  4. Finally one who actually has experience with injury and what it does to the mind. All these so called sports media experts instead of trying to make a flash statement for the me attitude should step back and look at reality.

  5. It’s amazing and understandable how one can’t really “get” this sort of thing until one goes through it personally. It was only a tiny fraction of the experience for me, but recently I badly tweaked just the wrong muscle in my back and went through a low grade version of what Ohrnberger was describing here: difficult to move and limited movements, constant pain that I could never totally get away from, the same total inability to find a sleeping position that would let off on the pain (and thus made sleep much less effective), efforts in my morning routine to set up my day to not be as painful, etc. If one bad back muscle was enough to cause all that for me – and my job isn’t anything like football with its physical demands – I can only begin to imagine what his experience was like.

  6. Until you walk in a mans shoes..I’m ex military and blew our my ACL/MCL 20 yrs ago. 3 surgeries later (finally knee replacement) and 15 yrs into a law enforcement career with daily u bearable pain I medically retired. Pain cause, stress and depression.

  7. I find that the Colts’ fans who boo’d him and those who think he’s soft miss a very important point: he could have easily been addicted to opiods to mask the pain just to give the fans their money’s worth. It was obvious from his presser that this was not a decision that Luck had just reached. Regardless of what the yellow journalism of the main muckraker here has posted, it is fairly obvious that Luck had expressed himself and of his concerns numerous times to his team and mates. I’m not a Colts fan so I don’t really watch him other than if that is the only game on the tv. To me this guy was never well protected and played a gutty game and was more often than not hurt.

    I sometimes have flareups on my back that are muscle spasms and I swear it overwhelms my thinking as I can’t do anything until I take a couple of Advils and slowly I begin to be able to function and to think clearly. By no means is this serious like what Andrew and this other “professional” player has experienced. But I’ve had a taste of the pain and it is not pleasant.

    I appreciate those who can view these as men instead of as gladiators or hunks of meat to provide us entertainment. Andrew had obviously reached the point where he could give no more and he did not saddle the team with any greater burden by retiring instead of playing as injured. I would argue he gave his team the best chance to win by retiring. This might have taken courage, but it took compassion and logic and a pretty big set to take this timeout. Who knows, he might be able to play again, but that is his decision. We all must applaud him making this step while he still is a functional human being. Those who slam him for this are truly unremarkable people who I’d never want to associate.

  8. At least these millionaire athletes didn’t lose limbs, life, get maimed like the men and women serving the country. Some perspective is needed here.

  9. patsfan4lifesbchamps says:
    August 27, 2019 at 12:03 pm
    At least these millionaire athletes didn’t lose limbs, life, get maimed like the men and women serving the country. Some perspective is needed here.

    0 7 Rate This
    ———————-

    And the enemies of America won’t be on our doorstep just because Luck stopped playing football so perhaps that is the perspective that others need.

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