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USA Today piece on Rypien


Henry

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I didn't realize just how bad the last few years have been for him. Like I said, I wish him nothing but the best.

Rypien puts bounce back in his step

By Tom Weir, USA TODAY

Mark Rypien owns a Super Bowl MVP trophy, but here he was, inexplicably down on the ground. No defender had breathed on Rypien, much less touched him. He was on the grass purely because his feet had chosen an inopportune moment to aim for different points on the compass.

For anyone else at the Indianapolis Colts practice, the tumble would have been a time to hang one's head. But for Rypien — who at 38 has come out of retirement and is vying for the backup quarterback spot — no facemask could hide the huge, boyish smile that broke out inside his helmet.

It stretched from one earhole to the other as he bounced back up on his feet and ran out the play. "You've got to watch out for these white lines," Rypien joked a little later. "They'll trip you every now and then."

Fans, players and coaches have been waiting 3 years to see that side of Rypien again. It disappeared at the same time Rypien went into voluntary retirement in July 1998. With his infant son, Andrew, battling brain cancer and his wife, Annette, fighting cervical cancer, Rypien knew his place was at home. There also were two other children to care for: daughters Ambre and Angela.

"Physically, I was ready and willing" to keep playing, Rypien says. "Mentally, football was the farthest thing from my mind. Annette persevered and, Rypien says, "She's doing well. It's pretty much a year-to-year thing now."

But 3-year-old Andrew died in August 1998, and the Rypien marriage also has ended in the last year. "Actually, we're still the best of friends," Rypien says. "With what we've been through over the last 3 years, we both knew going in that the odds were against us, with all the relationships that end when you lose a child. You try to combat that, and I can only say good things about Annette."

"We've endured enough over the last 3 years for anyone, so we quietly kind of ended things on our terms," Rypien says. "But we live close to each other (in Idaho), and we do everything we can with our girls, and that's the most important thing."

Daughters' nudging

Ambre, now 12, and Angela, 10, are the catalysts who have led Rypien to resume his career. He seldom watched football the last 3 years, but occasionally he would turn on the VCR and look again at the Washington Redskins' victory in Super Bowl XXVI.

"We would throw on the old videotape of me holding Ambre up and screaming those words, 'I'm going to Disney World! I'm going to Disneyland!' They get pretty pumped about that," Rypien says. "Ambre remembers being on the field and being held up in my hands. It's something you cherish the rest of your life."

In the time he was away from the NFL, Rypien was able to turn down overtures from Atlanta and San Diego. But the gentle nagging from his daughters was something he couldn't ignore. "My daughters were the ones who really coerced me into giving it another shot," Rypien says. "The big turning point for me was knowing that they felt comfortable with it and wanted to see me play."

Indianapolis' Pro Bowl quarterback, Peyton Manning, is among those who are glad Rypien listened. "You'd be amazed at what he can contribute," Manning says. During Saturday's scrimmage in Nashville against the Tennessee Titans, Manning says, "he was talking about when (Titans head coach Jeff) Fisher was in Philadelphia, and that he liked to use this one coverage a lot. That's going back a pretty good ways. Little things like that, it all adds up. As the quarterback who's going to be out there playing, I really like having him on my side."

Says Colts coach Jim Mora, "A guy as smart as he is and with his experience will pick up things a lot quicker than some younger guy."

Different comeback

While pointing out that backup Billy Joe Hobert has had a strong training camp, Manning says the Colts need three capable quarterbacks. "I'm glad to see he's back, and he's worked hard to get himself back in shape," Manning says.

For the past few months, the Calgary-born Rypien has been throwing to his brothers, both of whom played baseball on Canadian national teams. Rypien also has competed on the celebrity golf tour. At 6-4, 225 pounds, he still looks much the same as he did from 1988-93, the prime of his career, when he made 72 starts for Washington.

He says he signed with the Colts because "they were the first ones to call." Rypien says his comeback is different from the one Mario Lemieux made this year in the NHL, or the one eagerly anticipated around the NBA, by Michael Jordan.

"With them, it's mostly the physical gifts they have that set them apart," Rypien says. "Not that I don't have physical gifts myself, but for me it's more the mental aspect of it. At this position there's a lot put on your shoulders, a lot to learn. I guess you have to be a sponge and just try to absorb as much as you can."

'So darn smart'

In that regard, Rypien's MVP performance in the 1992 Super Bowl explains why the Colts aren't obsessing about the layoff as they give him a chance to become Manning's backup in an offense that's similar to what Washington ran.

Washington's Super Bowl opponent, Buffalo, had thrived on a no-huddle offense. Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs was impressed and decided to add the no-huddle to Washington's attack late in the season, knowing Rypien could handle the new task.

"He is so darn smart," Gibbs said of Rypien at the time. "He just doesn't make mistakes."

Though not extremely blessed with speed, Rypien had been sacked only seven times all season. He also wasn't sacked while throwing for 292 yards in the Super Bowl but still was hit often by a Buffalo defense that failed in its attempt to rattle him.

Afterward, frustrated defensive end Leon Seals said of Rypien, "Regardless of how many times we kept hitting him and putting him down, he kept getting up and coming up with the big one."

Rypien is showing that resiliency again. But he knows that, unlike when he withstood every hit Buffalo dealt him, unavoidable setbacks are ahead.

"I think the healing will never end," Rypien says. "There are going to be days when I'm down in the dumps. There are dates that are going to come up."

Such as Aug. 22.

"The day Andrew passed is going to be a tough day for me," Rypien says. "But being able to cope with the loss of Andrew is something I can deal with more now on a day-to-day basis than I have in the past."

So, yes, Rypien knows there are forces that will put him on the ground again, maybe even when he least expects it. But he's also learning how to get right back on his feet again.

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It's sad to read exactly how much Rypien has been through. I knew about his son Andrew. I didn't know his wife also had cancer and that they are now divorced.

talk about having all the water dumped on you at once.

If there is any justice out there he will get the shot to help the Colts win a couple of games this year.

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I admire the man, who appears to be a truly decent guy who was easy for me to root for, and who still is. I hope he makes the team.

Not to jump all over a feel-good piece, but I noted that they seemed to be crediting Rypien for having been sacked only 7 times during the 1991 season. They might want to consider the 6 gentlemen blocking in front of him who for my money made up one of the best offensive lines in league history that year.

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"Loosen up, Sandy baby. You're just too damn tight!" - John Riggins to Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor

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Or how about that quote "We would throw on the old videotape of me holding Ambre up and screaming those words, 'I'm going to Disney World! I'm going to Disneyland!' They get pretty pumped about that," Rypien says.

I'm going to DisneyWorld ! I'm going to DisneyLand !

Talk about a short attention span.

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I remember how much we all laughed when we heard from George Michaels back in 1991 that Redskins QB Mark Rypien had a run in with the law. Apparently, he was out at Dulles and saw some deer behind some trees at night. He had his kids in the car and eased his SUV over the curb to shine his headlights on them. Security was called and Mark was busted. For all the bad people in the NFL, here is one of the good guys.

I had to laugh again when the USA Today story tells about him falling down on his own. We used to RAIL against him for being a "goof" and he had a good fall with the Redskins on his own. I'm glad we were fair weather fans that year, because that was the Superbowl Season. What a shock to have this "goof" pull this off. Gotta love the guy.

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"My childhood was typical... summers in Rangoon, luge lessons. In the spring we'd make meat helmets. When I was insolent, I was placed in a burlap bag and beaten with reeds... pretty standard, really." - Dr. Evil

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