A Trip To, Through, and Back From Hell, a Look Back at Barret Robbins

Michael SippContributor IAugust 6, 2009

OAKLAND, CA  - SEPTEMBER 28:  Center Barret Robbins #63 of the Oakland Raiders waits to play against the San Diego Chargers on September 28, 2003 at Network Associates Coliseum in Oakland, California. The Raiders defeated the Chargers 34-31 in overtime. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Take a trip back. The week before Super Bowl XXXVII. The Raiders high-powered offense with NFL MVP Rich Gannon, Future Hall of Famers Tim Brown and Jerry Rice, along with the best offensive line in the league. The Raiders were facing the high-powered defense of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with Future Hall of Famers Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, Ronde Barber, and John Lynch.

The pre-game talk centered around the coaches of the Raiders and Bucs. That offseason before, Jon Gruden was "traded" from the Raiders to the Buccaneers. Al Davis has long been known to have the lowest coaching salaries around the league, and Gruden was no exception. Gruden was unhappy with his contract, so Davis traded Gruden's rights to the Bucs who always had a great defense, but their offense was never anything to be proud of except Mike Alstott and Keyshawn Johnson. The Raiders promoted offensive coordinator Bill Callahan to Head Coach after Gruden left.

The pre-game talk also centered around a key part of the Raiders that was missing. Pro Bowl center Barret Robbins was missing for most of the week. As it turns out, Robbins was in Tijuana, Mexico, partying all night and for most of the day. Robbins showed up at the team hotel Saturday afternoon, drawing the end to a drastic search by Robbins' wife and Raiders executive.

Robbins would not be allowed to play in the Super Bowl, one that the Buccaneers would rout the Raiders 48-21. Amazingly though, Robbins had no idea that the game was going on until his wife, Marisa told him. Robbins told Marisa that he thought the game already happened, and that he went out partying to celebrate.

Marisa checked him into a nearby hospital, were Robbins was diagnosed with manic depression, more commonly referred to a Bipolar disorder. Manic depression causes serious shifts in a person’s mood, energy, thinking, and behavior—from the highs of mania on one extreme, to the lows of depression on the other. 

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During a manic episode, a person might impulsively quit a job, charge up huge amounts on credit cards, or feel rested after sleeping two hours. During a depressive episode, the same person might be too tired to get out of bed and full of self-loathing and hopelessness over being unemployed and in debt.

Robbins would not falter though, and regained his starting spot the following year. But Robbins' name would appear on a client list of the Bay Area Co-operative that had given performance-enhancing drugs to former Olympic Champion Track & Field Athlete Marion Jones. As a result, Robbins would be cut from the Raiders.

This is were Robbins' story should end. Out of grace, but alive, wealthy, and able to father his daughters. It is not were it ends though. Robbins would keep falling though, into the arms of drug and alcohol abuse. It led him to another manic episode in Miami.

Police responded to a burglary call in an office building housing a nightclub and discovered Robbins, minus his shoes, crouching on a toilet to avoid detection in a women's restroom stall. Robbins outweighed every officer by at least 150 pounds, and all hell would ensue. At first he cooperated, but then he became agitated when a uniformed officer told him to put his hands on the wall, police say.

Three officers tussled with Robbins, who body-slammed at least two of them and tried to reach for their guns. Five shots were fired by Officer Michael Muley and two struck the former player. Police say Robbins began laughing and cursing after the attack and continued to struggle as he was being loaded into an ambulance.

The rounds hit Robbins in the heart and lung, nearly killing him. Robbins would be in a coma for over two months. Robbins would be charged with attempted murder, and numerous others. However, Robbins would avoid jail time and pled guilty to five charges, including the attempted murder charge. He would be sentenced to five years probation, ordered to treat his manic depression, and to avoid alcohol.

This is not were Robbins story ends either. From 2005 to 2008, Robbins' problems with substance abuse led to jail time for probation violations and several attempts to rehab. 

Finally though, Robbins attended a substance abuse program in February of this year, and he recently moved to a halfway house in June. In an interview with HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, Robbins has been quoted saying that he has no football money left, he has tried starting businesses but they have all failed. When asked about what he is going to do in the future, Robbins said, "I think about football every day. I would love to play football again. But I would also love to win the lottery. And I have as good of a chance at that."