Sept. 2, 1999
It never ceases.
A baseball-capped Chris Weinke ambles out of the locker room and they’re waiting, we’re all waiting. The reporters block his beeline to the dinner table because they have some questions. They always have questions.
“How is the neck?”
“How do you feel?”
“Are you still rusty?”
Chris Weinke gets set for
battle at FSU’s practice.
With every curious reporter, a barrage of insatiable questions meets the 27-year-old quarterback.
Since the spring when Weinke started rehabilitating his neck, with the fused sixth and seventh vertebrae, he hasn’t been able to escape the concern.
Not concern over his safety, or his life as the human being, Chris Weinke. No, the concern is about whether or not the man with the shotgun arm will be effective against a pass rush and can thread a football to one No. 9.
Last season, Weinke entered the opening game against Texas A&M as a replacement. He was promoted to the starting position because of the injury to Dan Kendra, and Weinke was rusty.
One could understand a little oxidation after toiling for six seasons in the minor leagues, sleeping on buses, fielding grounders and making about a million dollars. But after a year as an understudy, the first baseman was now on the football field.
Then he was broken – and he his future was again indeterminable.
Another season, another “return,” and more rust than the red radio flyer wagon that was left out in the rain.
“Sure, there’s some rust. But not as much as last year at this time,” Weinke said following the 41-7 season-opener. “Everybody makes mistakes and I made some. So I learn from those and get better.”
It is in these moments, during a mild-mannered off-week that the tin man gets oiled. A little here and a little there and once again, he’s off to see the wizard.
“I was more concerned about him being rusty anything else,” head coach Bobby Bowden said. “And maybe he was a little rusty (against Louisiana Tech), I don’t know. At least he got through it. I’m proud of him.”
Leading up to the opener, Weinke was beaming with the chance to run out onto the field again. Scar, rust and all, the quarterback had the playbook in his head and the football in his hand.
“After going through what I went through, I was looking forward to that day for a long time,” Weinke said. “During warm-ups I just wanted to start the game clock and get the game going. It was fun for me out there.”
Um, great. But what did it feel like to take that first hit since the surgery?
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