x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Great recoveries of Matt Cassel

The Kansas City Chiefs quarterback has shown throughout his career the ability to stage comebacks.

Matt Cassel recovered from an emergency appendectomy to play for Kansas last weekend.
Matt Cassel recovered from an emergency appendectomy to play for Kansas last weekend.

Matt Cassel once went nearly nine years between starts. The Kansas City Chiefs quarterback was not about to let the loss of a body part keep him out of the line-up.

The only starting quarterback in modern NFL history never to have started in a college game was taking snaps last Sunday, 11 days after an emergency appendectomy. The Chiefs defeated St Louis 27-13 to preserve the AFC West lead they have maintained all season.

"He was going to be throwing up blood, or he was going to be playing football," said Brian Waters, a Chiefs teammate. "That's the kind of guy he is."

The guy is impatient, for good reason. Between the end of his senior season at Chatsworth High School in California and the second week of his fourth pro season, Cassel began every game on the bench. He backed up Tom Brady with New England, and Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart at the University of Southern California

His college highlight? Recovering an onside kick to clinch a victory over rival UCLA.

Lowlight? Being asked by the coach Pete Carroll, now with the Seahawks, to switch to tight end. (He declined.)

Cassel's football career would have been over in 2005 if he had not caught the eye of NFL scouts at an audition for USC players. He was drafted by New England in the last round.

Brady suffered a knee injury during the 2008 opener, thrusting Cassel into the role of starter. He excelled. In 2009, with Brady's return imminent, Scott Pioli, general manager of the Chiefs, knew a quality quarterback might be available. Pioli had been the Patriots' personnel director when they drafted Cassel.

He traded for him and gave him a six-year contract.

The Chiefs went 4-12 in his first season, but Cassel has adjusted in the run-first offence. He is fifth in the NFL's passer ratings, with an outstanding touchdown/interception ratio of 24/5.

His appendix flared up on December 8, leading to its removal. Even then, he was determined not to miss a game.

With a childhood spent rising at dawn to push hay-filled wheelbarrows to feed the family's horses, what is a little discomfort in the midsection?

Still, he stayed home, suffering with fellow Kansas supporters who watched the Chiefs' 31-0 defeat in San Diego on television. Three days later, he was back at practice, fully engaged.

"He pulled a Superman routine," wide receiver Chris Chambers said after last Sunday's win. "He knew we needed him."

No more than Cassel, who believes the football gods owe him, needed it for himself.

sports@thenational.ae