Time to throw in towel?

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:34 AM ET

Jamie Crysdale's first taste of retirement went down pretty smooth.

With his Stampeders teammates sweating buckets through August -- four CFL games in all -- the veteran centre savoured a snippet of what summer offers most other Calgarians.

Family barbecues and outings with the kids became comfortable routines for the dedicated husband and father of three young children -- Thomas, Annabella and Grace.

Of course, the month-long pass included a hefty price tag, with the 13-year veteran limping away from a 210-game ironman streak, a furlough forced by arthroscopic knee surgery, coupled with a lengthy rehab.

He has since started the last three contests but was merely a spectator at practice again yesterday, another portent of life after football, with his wonky hinge still too sore to withstand the rigours of the daily two-hour grind on the turf.

Crysdale, 36, knows the knee may be sending him the painful message he should walk away from football while still able.

"My wife (Adrienne) told me this is basically how it will feel when I retire," Crysdale recalled yesterday about his summer holiday after strolling from another session in therapist Pat Clayton's room.

"I enjoyed my summer. Including college, 18 years I've never been able to do something like that with my family. I spent a lot of time at home trying to do what normal families do.

"There's a lot of things pointing towards the inevitable ... it's something definitely playing on my mind. As much treatment as I do, I feel great but if I sit in my truck for a half an hour, I feel like I'm 80 years old. Mentally, I feel young but physically I feel beat up."

Compounding the Mississauga native's mixed emotions is the publicized health issues of 4 1/2-year-old daughter Grace, valiantly battling cancer. Crysdale's oil-patch business also keeps his cellphone ringing non-stop. The daily hustle and bustle, coupled with his one-month sabbatical earlier this year, naturally has him wondering about life without shoulder pads and helmet.

Is a pro football career worth the cortisone shots and painkillers just to stay on the field?

"I know I can still play, it's just a matter of do I want to go through another season like this?" said Crysdale, a two-time Grey Cup champion in the final year of his contract.

"That's the big question mark. I'd rather retire this way than have somebody tell me I can't do it anymore.

"Week in and week out, I'm starting games at about 90 percent but by the end of the game, it's about 75. All the work we do to get the knee ready for the games and then by half-time, all the wear and tear from the turf and the pounding puts it right back to where it was. I've been so fortunate to have played 210 games healthy and go 100 percent every play and not worry about my body. Now I'm just hoping that by game day my knee will be where it won't cause me any more problems."

The 7-6 Stamps resurgence in the CFL West standings after three dismal seasons, fuelling the joyful atmosphere in the locker-room, is one of several forces tempting Crysdale to continue enduring the agony.

"I'm trying to have as much fun as I can and we're having a winning season but I just can't get past the fact I feel like (crap) every day," Crysdale said.

"I'm happy I can play with it and the coaching staff is allowing me to not practise all week and still play in the games but it keeps coming back to the same thing. At some point, I have to wonder how much damage am I doing to my knee. It's not the way I want to play football."

The inspirational presence of daughter Grace also pushes her father to carry on despite the pain.

"I take a lot from her," Crysdale said "She's so resilient, all I've got is a sore knee."


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