David Wilson news hits home for Jameel McClain

Posted Aug 5, 2014

LB Jameel McClain was born with spinal stenosis and missed time due to a spinal cord contusion

Jameel McClain might not feel David Wilson’s pain, but he understands its cause.

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Wilson was advised yesterday by Giants team doctors to end his career at age 23 because of concerns about his neck and spine, including spinal stenosis, a condition McClain was born with. When he played for Baltimore, McClain missed the final three regular-season games and the postseason (including the Ravens’ victory in Super Bowl XLVII) in 2012 and the first six games of the 2013 season with a spinal cord contusion.

“I didn’t know much about it when it happened, but I learned fast,” McClain said today. “Just like David learned fast about the different things that are involved with the neck. My situation was a little different than his, but it’s unfortunate either way. Like he said, he didn’t want anybody to feel bad for him. He’s the most upbeat person I’ve seen.”

That didn’t change despite Wilson having to miss the final 11 games last season after hurting his neck, undergoing a fusion of the vertebrae in January to repair the herniated disc in his neck, and suffering a final neck injury in practice last week. That led to the decision to permanently take the football out of his hands. A day after the announcement, Wilson’s premature departure from football was very much on the minds of the Giants’ players and coaches.

“We started our meeting off talking about David Wilson,” coach Tom Coughlin said of the first team gathering since their preseason-opening victory Sunday night against Buffalo. “I relayed to them what I told you (reporters) yesterday about how he came into my office and his attitude and the way he was going to approach this. The fact that he didn’t want pity, didn’t want anybody feeling sorry for him. I thought that was a key and the way he left the office talking about ‘Once a Giants, always a Giant’ really helped me. He helped me. David Wilson walked into my office and helped me understand and accept the fact that he was not going to be able to play anymore.

“I tried to relay all of that to our team. They were very concerned. They are very aware. They knew after the injury last week, as we all did, that there was always the possibility that when you have a neck that there could be an issue here going forward. That’s what we tried to do, make the team aware, and I think they are. I think they feel better about that. Knowing that David has - I don’t know what he does behind closed doors, don’t get me wrong, but he certainly is tough enough mentally to present a guy that’s at peace.”

The Giants have players who have returned to the field after suffering serious neck or spine injuries. Mathias Kiwanuka played in only three games in 2010 because of a herniated disk. McClain returned to start 10 games for Baltimore last season. Neither underwent surgery and were cleared by doctors to play after rigorous and thorough examinations.

“Mine was just something that needed time to heal,” McClain said. “It was possible that it could heal and also that it couldn’t. So I had to live with that. It was completely different than if I had surgery, then I would know I had a certain timetable. My injury was stretched out for such a long time because we just didn’t know. All we could do is sit back and take multiple MRIs. It was like drawing blood from me, slowly but surely. But it all panned out. I believed and my family believed and focused on me coming right back. Doing the right preparation for me to come right in and play the first game.”

The risk to Wilson is too great for him to play another down of football.

“You get the feeling that the situation was so real to me, that what he went through, all I was thinking about was how he was feeling and reacting,” McClain said. “It’s something that I had to confront because when I met my first doctor and he told me I was never going to play again, it was something I had to look at. To be in his position is not easy. He’s a young man with a lot of talent. For me, it hit me more personal than maybe others.”

Eli Manning is another teammate with an understanding of neck issues. His oldest brother, Cooper, had to quit playing football as a freshman at the University of Mississippi, when it was discovered he had spinal stenosis. Cooper Manning underwent surgery and endured an arduous rehabilitation before he could live a normal life. Peyton Manning had four neck surgeries and missed the entire 2011 season.

“I think it hits home whether you have brothers or not,” Manning said. “It hits home for every football player when early in your career you’re told you can’t play football anymore.”

Manning was asked if the news about Wilson prompted him to think about Cooper and Peyton.

“No,” he said, “I just feel for David.”

So does everyone else.
  • SPECIAL PRACTICE ALERT: Tomorrow’s practice (Wed., Aug. 6 from 5:40PM to 7:50PM) will include several special opportunities for Giants fans. David Diehl, Shaun O’Hara, Kareem McKenzie and Deon Grant will be in attendance to sign autographs from 5:45PM to 7:45PM.  Fans will receive a limited edition “Giants Pride” t-shirt featuring the team’s 90th season commemorative logo on the chest, as well as a Giants pride poster or 90th season pennant.  There will also be face painting stations and inflatable activities for kids.  The Giants current linebacker group will each sign for the fans for 15 minutes at the conclusion of practice.

    In the event that inclement weather closes practice to the public, the rain date for these activities will be Monday, August 11th when practice runs from 3:20PM - 5:30PM.