FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — An enlarged spleen, a blood clot and a steady dose of blood thinners kept Vinny Curry off the football field last season.
The New York Jets defensive end was happy to be alive, but dearly missed the game he loves. So he tackled the only thing he could: his house.
“Bro, let me tell y'all something: I probably rearranged and did construction in my house like no other, just trying to occupy my time,” a smiling Curry said Tuesday. “It was so bad, I even planted a rose garden at my house. A rose garden! Like, come on, man.”
For the 33-year-old Curry, the house flipping and beginner gardening couldn't compare to sacking quarterbacks and stuffing ballcarriers. But it was all he had.
Other than his life.
And that wasn't guaranteed just a few months earlier, when a series of health issues put his playing career on hold and his life in possible jeopardy.
“I’ve been playing this game since I was 5 or 6 years old,” said Curry, a married father of two young children. "You love the game so much and what it means to you, but in a blink of an eye, this could've taken me away from my babies. It was the most scariest thing.
“But at the same time, I knew I had to be here for them and my wife and it was like, ‘I’m going to get through this,’ you know?”
Curry spent his first six NFL seasons with Philadelphia after being drafted in the second round out of Marshall in 2012. He played in Tampa Bay for one season before rejoining the Eagles for two more years. Curry signed a one-year, $1.3 million deal with the Jets in March 2021 and was expected to add a veteran presence to New York's pass rush.
But then came the sudden health issues.
Curry was diagnosed by Jets team doctors with a rare blood disorder that required the removal of his spleen last July.
“At any give moment,” Curry said, “it could have burst."
He was hoping to return to the field at some point last season, but developed a blood clot — at first thinking it was just a cramp in his right side. It turned out he wasn't taking his blood thinners correctly because of what he called "on my part, miscommunication” while trying to speed up the recovery process.
Instead, he was sidelined even longer than first expected, with doctors telling him he had to remain on blood thinners for the next few months — and with no physical activity. So that meant no football.
“I felt like I let the guys down,” Curry said. “I was trying to rush back to them and be a part of the group.”
He insisted he never doubted he'd be able to someday return to playing, but acknowledged it was a “scary” experience dealing with the blood clot.
“Like, what if this spread?” Curry recalled thinking. "And I tried not to let that self-doubt get in, but let’s be honest, we’re all human. So even if a little bit of it creeps in, it’s like, ‘Damn, what if this spreads to my lungs or my calves?’ ... But when I looked at them babies, I was just like, ‘I can’t let them see me timid.’
“If you’re the head of the household, I’ve got to be strong at all times. Because in their eyes, you’re a superhero.”
He maintained a presence around the Jets most of last season, helping serve as a sounding board for his teammates.
“He’s an unbelievable person, first and foremost,” defensive lineman Quinnen Williams said. “Last year while he was going through what he was going through, we all prayed for him and we all talked to him, but he was still a dialed-in leader.”
The worst moments came on Sundays because Curry couldn't play. So, he would sit and watch the games by himself.
“And that’s the part that really messes with you mentally because it’s like, damn, you know you’re supposed to be out there and you know it’s not your fault,” he said. “But at the end of the day, it’s like, damn, I can’t wait to be back out there. And that kind of motivated me to persevere and be here in front of you guys today.”
Curry followed the doctors' orders and received a clean bill of health. He's no longer on blood thinners and his previous issues are behind him.
He was released by the Jets in January, but re-signed in April. And now Curry's back where he always believed he'd be — with his teammates again on the field.
As for that rose garden, well, it didn’t fare too well. The branches grew, but the buds never bloomed. He's a football player, after all — certainly not a gardener or contractor.
“I'm back to normal,” he said with a grin. “Back to doing backflips once in a blue (moon).”
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