Sean Richardson never feared for his career, but understood the magnitude of neck surgery.
After being one of four undrafted rookies to make the Green Bay Packersí roster this past season, the 6-foot-2, 216-pound safetyís season was halted after only five games due to a neck injury that eventually required surgery for a cervical disc herniation in January.
The 23-year-old Richardson was comforted by the fact the surgery was going to be performed by Dr. Robert Watkins, the Los Angeles-based surgeon who also conducted Peyton Manningís neck-fusion surgery in 2011.
The injury occurred during a Nov. 25 game against the New York Giants, but Richardson thought nothing of it at the time. Initially, he felt no ill-effects on his neck and attributed his pain to back spasms.
So he attempted to return to practice before the team decided it wanted to look a little closer at the injury and the bad news about his neck was brought to light.
ďA herniated disc in the neck, thatís pretty serious, but I never had a doubt that I (didnít want to) hang it up. Never,Ē Richardson said. ďI always keep faith, pray about it, and talk to my family. I got a lot of support from the team and outside of the team. Itís been a journey and I had the heart for it. Iím excited to get back.Ē
The Packers already lost safety, three-time Pro Bowler Nick Collins, to a single-fusion surgery in 2011, but Richardson remains adamant his procedure came with a better prognosis. According to several experts, the return rate is typically around 50-70 percent for NFL players.
There was some fear following his MRI that he would need a two-level fusion procedure that would fuse three vertebrae together, but Watkins found that unnecessary once the procedure began.
Richardson was put on bed rest for two weeks after the surgery before progressing into neck-muscle rehab and so on. Presently, Richardson said heís on Step 4 of his five-level process before doctors reexamine the neck through another MRI.
Thereís still no timetable for Richardsonís return as heís yet to be cleared by doctors to compete, but claims heís nearing 100 percent.
ďItís always tough to be on the sideline. You always want to compete,Ē Richardson said. ďBeing a big competitor like I am, thatís all I do and thatís what got me here is working hard. I wasnít always the best player on the field but I always worked for it, always competed, and I play with a passion. Thatís what got me here and thatís whatís keeping me going and thatís what helped me through this surgery and the rehab. I just keep faith and keep pushing. Iíll be back out there.Ē