Wednesday, when I posted about Jere Longman's New York Times piece on Shawn Andrews, I excerpted the parts of the story where Jere did a really good job of getting Shawn to talk about something I know has been in the backs of teammates' minds -- whether Shawn really enjoys playing football. I think they've maybe even wondered whether he is willing to put in the film work, etc., to live up to his tremendous potential.
The story correctly noted that the subject of long-term disability seems to never be far from the thoughts of the Eagles' two-time Pro Bowl offensive lineman. To be fair, there was lots of more reassuring stuff in there, as well, about how Shawn feels he's winning his battle against depression. And let's be clear -- Shawn Andrews, as far as I know, is a really good person. I remember early in his career, he did an appearance for the team around Christmas, where kids were given a certain amount of time in a toy store to gather up stuff, and they could keep whatever they could jam into a cart during that time. Turned out the kids jammed in way more than the Eagles employee assigned to run the promotion was authorized to spend. When Shawn found out, he pulled out his own cash and made up the difference. I think "The Big Kid" has a kind heart.
But I keep coming back to the "love of football" stuff. The story says Shawn has never watched an entire NFL game that he wasn't playing in. That's pretty amazing. Back earlier in the offseason, when the Eagles were considering moving Shawn to the critical left tackle spot, where he would protect the quarterback's blind side, I remember speaking with someone who noted how previous left tackle Tra Thomas became a student of the defensive ends he would line up against, scrutinizing the details of their moves and tendencies, agonizing whenever someone got around him and hit Donovan McNabb. There was an obvious question as to whether Shawn was that kind of guy. We might never know; he's being moved to right tackle, a change from right guard, but not as big a responsibility as the left side would've been.
Pondering all this got me thinking about another Shawn, singer-songwriter Shawn Colvin. (No relation to Shawn Andrews, as far as I know.) Quite a few years ago now, Frau Eagletarian and I went to a Shawn Colvin concert at the Tower Theater. Sometime during the show, Colvin was talking to the audience about what a crazy, difficult life it is, going around the country in a tour bus, playing concerts. As I remember it, she said she and her band had been discussing this on the bus, and they had taken to bucking themselves up by quoting Hyman Roth from Godfather II: "This is the business we've chosen."
Translation: Yeah, sometimes this life stinks. It's hard. But nobody's forcing us. We got into it with our eyes open.
I'm not trying to minimize Andrews' fear of what a lineman's life might be like, 15 or 20 or 30 years down the road. We've all read the stories about 50-something ex-NFL stars who can't walk, or even worse, the stories about damaged brains. You think Brian Dawkins hasn't pondered what happened to Andre Waters? Of course he has. The league needs to do everything it can, from rules changes to equipment upgrades, to make the sport less devastating to those who play it. This should be a huge priority.
But Brian Dawkins is still taking money to play pro football, and you don't get much hand-wringing from him about it. This is the business he's chosen. If Shawn Andrews would rather go try to sing for a living, nobody's stopping him. If he's going to cash checks made out by an NFL team, he owes it to himself and to his teammates to be in the moment, every moment, to become the unstoppable force he is capable of becoming. This is not the sort of game you can play reluctantly.
Excellent post today, by the way, on Iggles.blog, about Kevin Curtis and DeSean Jackson and why it might not be a given that Jackson is going to explode into full-fledged stardom this season. Even has one of those nifty charts Derek Sarley does so well, that make my head hurt when I think about trying to put them together myself.