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As a professional athlete, playing through the pain is often an unfortunate reality of the job. While gutting it out for the good of the team might seem like a noble sacrifice, it’s not always the best idea. Chris Simms experienced that reality firsthand during his time with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

During Week 3 of the 2006 campaign, Simms suffered an injury but stayed on the field, trying to lead his team to a much-needed victory. Not only did the Buccaneers come up short, but that decision almost killed the quarterback.

Chris Simms path to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Today, most football fans probably know Chris Simms as a member of the media. Before ever stepping behind the microphone, though, he stood under center in the NCAA and NFL ranks.

Coming out of high school, Simms committed to the University of Tennesse, but decided to call an audible. He enrolled at the University of Texas, where he spent his first two seasons as a bit-part player, occasionally stepping in for Major Applewhite. He saw more of the spotlight as a junior, but struggled down the stretch, suffered a hand injury, and ultimately lost the starting job.

Simms spent his entire senior season as a starter and, for the most part, did well. He threw for 3,207 yards and 28 touchdowns on the year and, after graduation, landed with the Tampa Buccaneers as a third-round draft pick. The quarterback sat on the bench for his entire rookie year; after that, he moved up to the depth chart and, as a backup, started 12 games over the next two seasons.

Facing death on the football field

Coming into the 2006 season, Chris Simms finally secured the starting job. Within a matter of weeks, though, he would be staring death squarely in the face.

During the Buccaneers’ Week 3 game against the Carolina Panthers, Simms found himself in serious trouble after absorbing a big hit. While he tried to play through the pain—the quarterback wanted to make amends for his poor start to the season and lead his team to victory—that proved to be a mistake.

“I thought that maybe I had a broken rib that was like puncturing my lung,” Simms explained on “PFT Live with Mike Florio.” “That’s what I was thinking throughout the game because I could not catch my breath [and] I was uncomfortable in my abdomen the whole time.”

Simms’ injury, however, was much worse; he ruptured his spleen and started bleeding internally. The quarterback even began to blackout on the field, but went into the locker room, received some intravenous fluids, and returned to the action. After the game, though, everything clicked.

“When I was sitting on the sideline for the last drive, watching [Carolina] get in field goal position, my thought went, ‘damn, am I bleeding internally?” Simms continued. “I couldn’t even stand anymore.”

Chris Simms almost died that afternoon


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Chris Simms, of course, was bleeding internally. While he managed to make it to the hospital, undergo surgery, and has been able to live a normal life, things could have been quite different.

“There’s 14 pints of blood [in the human body],” Mike Florio added. “He had lost nine of them internally. And the doctors had his wife come in to tell him goodbye. Not come see him before the surgery, tell him goodbye because he may not live.”

While Simms hadn’t exactly set the NFL on fire before his injury, that near-death experience proved to be the end of his career. The quarterback missed the entire 2007 season and spent brief stints as a backup in Tennessee and Denver before retiring.

These days, Chris Simms has become a fixture in the football media. If things shook out differently in 2006, though, his life could have ended tragically.

Stats courtesy of Sport-Reference and Pro-Football-Reference