Robbins rejoins Raiders

Posted: Friday, June 13, 2003

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) Barret Robbins stood on the Oakland Raiders' practice field, hands on hips, quietly chatting with fellow center Adam Treu.

On the surface, it seemed like any other day at NFL minicamp. It wasn't.

This was Day 1 of Robbins' fresh start.

On Thursday, he participated in his first formal workout since being suspended by the Raiders a few hours before the Super Bowl. The All-Pro center's fall from grace couldn't have been more public. Robbins, a recovering alcoholic who's since been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, had a roller coaster weekend in January that included a drinking binge, a trip to Tijuana and thoughts of suicide.

After a 31-day stint at the Betty Ford Center and several quiet months of recovery, he feels ready to repair his image and to return to the Raiders alongside a few teammates who initially didn't want him back.

Robbins said he's been fighting alcohol problems since his early teenage years, but that he hasn't had a drink since the Saturday before the Super Bowl.

''I had a bipolar episode,'' Robbins said of the night he disappeared. ''It could have been stress. It was a highly stressful situation, added by alcohol abuse.''

He considered suicide.

''That's obviously not a very good feeling,'' he said. ''Having manic depression, going from mania to a depression state. Going all the way that high and in the same day ending up that low is certainly a very helpless feeling. I felt helpless.''

Robbins disappeared the night before the Raiders' 48-21 Super Bowl loss to Tampa Bay in San Diego on Jan. 26. He missed two meetings and a walkthrough the day before the game. Coach Bill Callahan said Robbins was incoherent and didn't know where he was when he showed up late that night. Callahan dismissed him, and Treu started the Super Bowl in his place.

The 29-year-old Robbins was harshly criticized by teammates at first, but the revelations about his medical problems, as well as his apology, muted some of the resentment.

Robbins addressed the team in a meeting last month.

Frank Middleton, one of Robbins' most outspoken critics after the Super Bowl, walked into the locker room Thursday singing ''We Are Family.''

''We're working together as a family to get past this,'' said Middleton, a fellow lineman who dresses a couple lockers away from Robbins. ''He apologized to the team. That's all we can ask for. Once we start playing, this all is going to get behind us.

''The guy went through a little problem and paid the price. I can't be harder than the judge. You steal a couple times and get three strikes. I'm giving the man three strikes. ... I can forgive. I'm a big enough man to forgive.''

The 6-foot-3, 320-pound Robbins, who has a history of depression on his mother's side, spent Thursday's practice taking snaps with the second team. He was limited in drills after having arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in April.

''He's going to have to earn a spot back on the roster,'' Callahan said. ''This is going to be an ongoing process through training camp and into the year. For him, every day is a challenge.''

Robbins is undergoing extensive therapy and taking medication for bipolar disorder. He insists as long as he takes the medication he should be free of future episodes.

He has been working out regularly at the Raiders' practice facility since March and rehabbing his reputation, too.

Robbins spoke to ESPN on Wednesday and to a swarm of local media for about 20 minutes Thursday. Robbins has said he has little recollection of exactly what happened.

''I'm very sorry for what happened on Super Bowl Sunday,'' he said. ''My family and I have gone through a very tough time through this. I appreciate all the support I've gotten from people, fans, friends, loved ones, doctors, senators, lawyers, you name it.''

Robbins thought about retirement, but he is convinced he has another Pro Bowl season in him he made the AFC roster for the first time last season, his eighth in the NFL, but did not play in the game.

''Mounting a comeback of this nature, it's hard to describe how hard it is in one's mind,'' he said. ''I'm committed to it and I think with the support of my teammates I'll be able to do it. ... If I'm going to face it, let's face it now.''

Middleton compared his process of accepting Robbins again to that of recovery.

''Out of the 12 steps, I'm at about six,'' he said. ''(Owner) Al Davis is known for helping people and not turning his back on people. You can't expect Al was going to leave him out to dry. Once the head man said he'd forgive him, it's time for us to start forgiving him, too.''

Added right tackle Lincoln Kennedy, ''I don't think the arms were ever closed.''

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