ST. LOUIS (May 17, 2005) -- Adam Archuleta knew something was terribly wrong with his back last season when he couldn't tie his own shoelaces.
"It was pretty much a nightmare," the St. Louis Rams safety said. "I really probably had no business being out there. When you play a whole season and you can't bend over and touch your knees, it's a big deal."
After four months of rehab, Archuleta was back on the field for voluntary organized team activities. And feeling like he belongs on the field again.
"Let's put it this way: Compared to where I was during the season, I'm about 6,000 percent better," Archuleta said. "From what I hear and what people tell me, all the experts, they say I'm ahead of schedule."
Archuleta played with a herniated disc in his back all last season after getting hurt in training camp, and was nowhere near the impact player he had been in his first three seasons with the Rams. Although he finished second on the team with 123 tackles, he had only two sacks, no interceptions and no quarterback pressures.
Archuleta, a former first-round pick in 2001, said with about two weeks of rest, he would have been fine. But he didn't want to come off the field. Fellow safety Aeneas Williams missed most of the second half of the season with an arthritic condition in his neck, a career-ending injury given that the team has already reassigned his number.
"I just had an obligation to my teammates to play," Archuleta said. "In my eyes, I could go out there and play. Now, was it at a high level? Was it at the level I'm used to playing? No.
"But I was able to go out and perform, so it's hard for me to say, 'No, I can't go out there.' "
Archuleta decided to rehabilitate the back instead of undergo surgery. He's satisfied with the results, achieved after perhaps a longer period of time but without the risks associated with an operation.
A battery of personal trainers at his home in Tempe, Ariz., helps keep him on task.
"On certain days I go see the soft-tissue guy, on certain days I go see my Pilates person, on certain days I go see my physical-therapy people," Archuleta said. "Then on weekends I go to Los Angeles and work with my rehab people."
Archuleta always has been undersized at his position -- 6 feet, 220 pounds -- and he doesn't plan on adding any weight to help him make it through next season.
"All I probably needed last year was a few weeks' rest and I would have been fine," Archuleta said. "The fact that I played on it and it got worse and worse is really why I'm in this situation right now."
The Associated Press News Service
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