Some of the New England Patriots were loosening up sore muscles today by throwing a Frisbee, while Darryl Stingley waited to be interviewed.
The Frisbee was a reminder of another of the simple things he cannot do since he was paralyzed by a neck injury a year ago. Yet, he said to a cluster of his former teammates, "It's like a shot in the arm just being around you guys."
There was the inevitable question about his sons playing football some day. Darryl Jr. is 10 and Derrek 8.
"By the time they play, maybe it will be safer, with all the changes in regulations and equipment. Of course, I'd rather my sons be doctors or lawyers. I don't know how much the rules can be changed to help.
"I think the game officials should become more judges of character . . . what the intention is in a player's mind. Some players are aggressive -- in my case, too aggressive."
That prompted a query about his feelings toward defensive back Jack Tatum of the Oakland Raiders, who was involved in the collision that injured Stingley.
"There is not much change in those feelings," Stingley said. "I try not to think of the grief he caused me and my family. He was trying to do his job, but I don't know what his intention was.
"I still have not heard from him, not even a card or a letter. Maybe he was told by his lawyer to be quiet, or it would be an admission of guilt."
There was a poignant moment during Monday night's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Schaefer Stadium during the second quarter, when Stingley's presence was announced to the sellout crowd. Sixty thousand fans got up and faced club owner Bill Sullivan's box and waved and cheered for about five to seven minutes.
"Nothing like that ever happened to me," Stingley said. "It always happened to somebody else, it seemed. It felt good to know the people still appreciated me, though I'm no longer on the field. It will take a lifetime for me to figure out how to express how I felt.
"The visit here from Chicago (where he lives) meant a lot to me because it was the team that asked me to come."
Stingley stopped and explained, "I just got short of breath . . . I wanted the players to see me now. The last they saw me I was in the hospital in Oakland. I was real bad then.
"I almost died several times. I had a bout with pneumonia. I got fluid in my chest because I couldn't move around. I couldn't breathe on my own. It felt like somebody was sitting on my chest, but because of God I overcame it. Self-preservation is the first law of nature.
"I could see it in the people's faces, the doctors' faces, even my family, that I wasn't doing too well. I felt I had to fight back so I would cause them no grief. I'm still not as strong as I'd like to be . . . to be able to travel a couple hours by plane. I've improved a lot in one year. I've made the doctors respect me. I think it was because of the good shape I was in when I was hurt.
"My next rehabilitation goal is to get more strength in my upper body so I can get myself out of one wheelchair to another. I probably could trade this one in for a new Mustang and get a rebate."
On his left arm brace is an identification tag, inscribed "D. Stingley." He demonstrated that he now can lift his right arm high enough to feed himself with a fork by pushing a botton on the brace. "It gives me exercise, too," he said.
The battery on Stingley's mechanized chair became inoperative and when a paraplegic at a nearby hospital read about that, he lent his chair to Stingley for his two days here.
To the question of "What is a normal day for you?" Stingley responded:
"Waiting for my nurse (who was here with him and his attorney). I do exercise and then eat breakfast or lunch, according to what time I get up. Then I do the mail; I get a tremendous amount. I remember one letter from a fellow at Duke University. He pointed out I have media outlets now and asked that I make comments about safety in football.
"I did. I said coaches should teach good techniques and tell players not to spear, and things like that. There's a lot of guys trying to make a living, but I don't know why some want to be 'personalities' and try to stand out in a certain sort of way."