Newberry: It’s Time to Retire

Aug 8, 2006 at 10:23 PM

Okay, so let me get this straight: Jeremy Newberry can barely walk, drive, or wake up without feeling pain in both his knees. He had a "last resort" surgery on one knee only to have to consider doing the same thing to his "good" knee months later. All the while he can't practice more than two sessions straight without taking time off. And now, he can't even partake in the "low intensity" conditioning he could complete at the beginning of training camp.

Jeremy Newberry is like that girlfriend you can't get rid of. Sure, when it was great, it was great. But now she won't admit it's over and keeps lingering around hoping for some miniscule opportunity where she can show you she's changed.

Unfortunately, Newberry's condition has not changed after another season in limbo. Frankly, it's time to hang 'em up.

I admire Newberry for hanging on this long. He had absolutely no cartilage in his knee. Imagine that for just a second. imagine rubbing bone on bone over and over - slowly grinding away at the top of each bone - every single time your knee moves. In order to alleviate the pain he - well, technically a surgeon - literally drilled holes into his left knee just so the bone marrow could grow and replace the cartilage his knee is missing.

It's a feat by any means. But by the looks of it the micro-fracture surgery was not successful. Newberry is not able to practice due to pain in the knee. To make things worse, his left knee, which acted as his de facto cane during his rehab, is now mimicking his right. Symmetry sucks.

So he is now toiling around on the second team, unable to practice. It's a foregone conclusion that Heitmann will open the season as the starting center. The offensive line needs continuity in order to succeed. If you take away continuity you may as well take away a lineman's arms and hope they can provide enough of a hurdle before the quarterback is trampled.

If Newberry cannot practice he hurts the team more than he helps. Last season Newberry played in 10 games while not practicing in order to limit wear on his knees. During this span the 49ers averaged 99.3 rushing yards per game. When Eric Heitmann, the center that practiced with the team instead of Newberry, stepped in the final six games of the season the team averaged 116 rush yards per game. The final two weeks, after the line had 4 games to gel with a consistent center, they averaged 199.5 rush yards per game.

If Newberry makes the team as the second team center, I have little doubt he would cost a younger backup a roster spot. A backup that would, presumably, remain with the team longer and in better health than Newberry could. And if Newberry were forced into action, could he be effective without practicing? Would the team be forced to bring in a temporary solution off the street because Newberry could not hold up?

Beyond the football questions, there is also the question of quality of life. Newberry turned 30 this year and he has already, literally, worked his knees to the bone. He can barely drive anywhere without using cruise control to rest his ailing knees. Football is a violent game and it wreaks havoc on the body. Without the constant bludgeoning and flying mass of bodies there is no doubt Newberry would be able to lead a relatively normal life. He virtually had no pain when he entered camp. Is one season of playing second-string center worth a lifetime of pain? What if someone rolls the knee in a pile, then what? The risks are innumerable.

It looks like Newberry's vision is clearing and he is beginning to see what Coach Nolan saw last season. Newberry is hanging on be a tiny sliver of cartilage and unfortunately, it is not enough to keep him in the NFL.

He was a helluva player for the 49ers, and no one can dispute that he is tough for having the will to stick it out this long. At this point, though, he needs to do the 49ers and himself a favor.

The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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