Kalani Simpson


By Kalani Simpson

Chang latest injury
a tough break

THERE is a comedy routine Denis Leary (the intense, insane smoking guy) does in which his father cuts off a thumb while using power tools. There is a horrible sound. A second later the dad calmly walks into the room, with no thumb, asking for electrical tape so he can tape it back on and get back to work.

The kids are thunderstruck. The mother, of course, loses it. She is hysterical. She has to get him to a hospital, but the dad shrugs her off. No big deal. He is too macho, even having just lost a thumb, to let someone else drive. He insists on driving himself to the hospital, without a thumb.

It is at this point that the young Leary has a sudden and undeniable realization. He turns to his kid brother: "Hey, pal. Forget about crying, OK? Crying is over. We're never going to be able to cry about anything ever, OK?"

With a father figure who would staple gun a severed limb back on and not blink an eye, you learn not to complain about skinned elbows. Or even broken elbows. It's no longer an option.

Imagine being an injured athlete playing for June Jones.

The man almost died in a horrific car crash, then snuck out of the hospital early and went golfing.

All he was missing was the electrical tape.

You're going to tell him you're a little banged up? Forget about being injured, OK? Being injured is over. You're never going to be able to be injured ever, OK?

But now Timmy Chang is.


Imagine being an injured athlete playing for June Jones. Chang does not want to be hurt. Are you kidding? Not again. Not ever, OK? After last season, he'd been trying to prove to his teammates, his coach, perhaps even to himself, that he is a tough guy.

Now this.

You have to feel for him. Another bad break. Nate Jackson had injuries that only made him look tougher. If Chang were playing defense, we might never have heard about a broken pinkie. But he needs to be able to throw passes with precision, he needs to grip the ball.

Chang gets compared to rough-and-tumble Nick Rolovich. Remember what Rolo said when he injured his left shoulder against Fresno State?

"Coach, I throw with my right."

So does Chang. I still think his last two setbacks have had less to do with pain tolerance and more to do with cold, hard medical fact. And even colder luck.

But here is another cold fact. This would not have stopped Jones. I know it, you know it and the American people know it. Oh, how Chang knows it.

And Jones knows it most of all.

You see, the thing about Jones is he doesn't mind the injuries. It's the letting them affect you part that he can't conceive. If you spend much time with him, the word "concussions" is likely to come up, followed by a story of how he would always play through them.

Yesterday, Jones mentioned that his old teammate, Steve Bartkowski, once played quarterback with a compound fracture in a dislocated index finger. Of course Bartkowski did. Jones was behind him on the depth chart and Jones would play if his head caved in.

Jones was a quarterback who waited a long, long time to get his chance, and once he did he was not coming off that field. In the pros he played only a handful of games a season, and nothing would stop him from getting every minute he could get. He needed to prove that he was deserving of that time, that roster spot, that paycheck.

Chang was always the starter, always the star.

But last year's injury changed him. The lessons were seared into him. He's harder now, tougher, takes nothing for granted. He says that he's hungry and we have every reason to believe.

He can be a great player if he can just stay on that field. If only he can turn that corner and show them all.

But now this. The frustration! All the old questions, all the old ghosts, just when he meant to put all this behind him for good.

Imagine being an injured athlete playing for June Jones.

A determined Chang says all the right things. He'll be ready. He'll be back. He'll play in that first game. "You ain't happy if you're an athlete unless you're playing," he said.

But yesterday Jones said this: "It doesn't really matter who's in there. We're going to move the football."

That's not the kind of thing you want to hear when you're injured. Not again. Not when your coach appreciates the value of electrical tape.

Kalani Simpson can be reached at

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