DENVER (May 17, 2006) -- Dwayne Carswell 's route back to the NFL leads him right past the intersection where his life changed.
Carswell was traveling from his home in Aurora to the Denver Broncos' practice facility on a gray October morning when his sedan was crumbled in a multicar accident that sent him to the hospital for lifesaving surgery after he was extricated from the wreckage.
"I remember everything pretty much. It's kind of like slow motion," Carswell said Wednesday in his first interview since the crash.
He broke ribs, ruptured his diaphragm and spleen and underwent a five-hour operation.
"I'm kind of glad I remember. It's an experience I can talk about so, that's a good thing," Carswell said.
He said the frightening experience is replayed in his mind "only when I'm passing the scene."
How often is that?
"All the time."
Carswell, a 12-year veteran who moved from tight end to tackle last season, didn't change his route to work after the accident at the busy intersection about 10 miles from Broncos headquarters.
"No, I just move over a couple lanes," he said.
He did get a bigger vehicle, though.
"I went and bought an F-150 pickup truck."
Carswell's comeback hit full stride this week as the Broncos began 14 days of organized team activities spanning the next four weeks. Although he's not doing any hitting yet, he is participating in drills and trying to recapture his rhythm along with his strength and stamina.
The 34-year-old Carswell played tight end during his first 11 seasons, all in Denver. He was moved to offensive line last year but the Broncos used him in tackle-eligible plays several times and he caught two touchdown passes at Jacksonville shortly before his car crash.
Carswell is so thrilled to be back on the field that he's not bemoaning the "voluntary" offseason workouts that many veterans find tedious.
"I'm happy to be out there, actually," Carswell said. "It's been so long since I've been on the field and put on some cleats and everything. I'm having a good time."
Carswell said he has no lingering pain from the accident, only soreness from getting back into shape. He's even happy with the considerable weight he lost. He used to pack 290 pounds onto his 6-foot-3 frame, which earned him the nickname "House."
Carswell guessed he has lost about 15 pounds, but it appears more like 50.
"I don't want to put it all back on," he said. "I want to be smaller for right now."
What is bigger is his appreciation for his family and football.
"It's going back to doing what I love -- just playing football, being able to move around and do the things that I've been doing for years. It's pretty exciting," Carswell said.
He savors each and every trip to and from work, even when he crosses Parker Road and Hampden Avenue, where the accident occurred.
"You're put on this Earth to do certain things and experience certain things and you want to do everything you dream of doing and something like that comes along to kind of set you back a little bit. You don't take everything for granted afterward," he said.
If the Broncos were rebuilding, it might have been easier for Carswell just to call it a career and go on with his life, spending time with his wife and two daughters rather than preparing his body for the rigors of another season in the NFL.
His hankering to return, however, only deepened the further the Broncos went in the playoffs.
"We were so close," Carswell said. "I know what it feels like to win a championship and I want to get back there and I believe we can do it. So, I want to be a part of it."