EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - Mathias Kiwanuka calls himself a risk taker, but when it comes to tooling around on his motorcycle, he is done rolling the dice.
With good reason. On May 28, the Giants defensive end was riding in his hometown of Indianapolis when his older brother, Benedict, collided with a car. Benedict Kiwanuka, 32, will survive, but he suffered serious injuries and is still hospitalized. Neither brother was wearing a helmet.
"He's doing much better," Kiwanuka said today in his first public comments about the accident. "He's out of intensive care, and hopefully we'll get him out of the hospital pretty soon."
While his brother faces a long recovery, Mathias has also been changed by what happened 10 days ago.
"I won't be riding a motorcycle anytime soon," said Kiwanuka, 27. "It was definitely tough to see. And I think it was an experience that God put us in for all of us to go through, but it's something that I never want to be a part of again."
Kiwanuka did not discuss details of the accident. "It's still a little too fresh," he said.
According to a published report, the brothers were riding down an Indianapolis street when Benedict's bike hit a car pulling out of the parking lot of an apartment complex. The impact of the crash sent Benedict flying off his motorcycle and more than 100 feet down the road. Mathias was riding behind his brother and managed to avoid the car.
"I did not fall off the bike," Mathias said. "I had a little bit more time than he did to react, because I was behind him. So I saw it and stopped.
"My bike never went down. I didn't crash. I stopped. I actually pushed my bike off to the side before I got in the ambulance. That's why it was leaning up against the fence. I stopped. He flew so far I actually had time to put my bike back into gear and ride to where he was. I didn't want to leave the bike in the street, so I just pushed it off to the side and jumped in."
Although one report said the brothers were riding fast, Kiwanuka said, "speed (was) not a big issue."
Benedict suffered a severe injury to one arm – "(that's) where most of the blood was coming from," Kiwanuka said – and several other broken bones. The Kiwanuka family was soon keeping a Memorial Day weekend vigil at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis.
"In the beginning when it was touch and go it was very difficult," Kiwanuka said. "It's tough to see and tough to go through. But now that we know he's going to be okay – he broke a lot of bones, but he's going to make a full recovery – that makes it so much easier. I understand that we're blessed to still have him with us and to have him at full capacity at some point.
"I think it was a solid two days before we knew he was going to make a full recovery. And even then they were still exploring, they hadn't found the extent of all of his injuries. But we started getting good news about the two-day mark."
By then, Kiwanuka had already decided he would no longer ride his Honda CBR. He doesn't know if the Giants were aware that he rode, though he spoke to the team after the accident. But by then, he didn't need an executive order to find less hazardous forms of relaxation.
"We spoke about it," Kiwanuka said. "It wasn't something anybody had to tell me. You go through something like that you realize how much of a gift life is and how short it can be and (you) try to make better decisions. For me, the position I'm in, watching that and knowing what I have left here to do, not just in football, but on this earth, is enough to wake you up to realize there's better ways to have fun."
Kiwanuka said he rode a "couple of times a week" and only in the offseason, both in New Jersey and Indiana. He wore a helmet here, as mandated by law.
"But in Indiana there's not a helmet law, so (for) short rides, we didn't think that it was too serious," Kiwanuka said. "When you're on a motorcycle, it's not just you. You can do everything right and you're still at the mercy of everybody else on the road. So to not ride with a helmet on, right now, doesn't make any sense. Before, I wasn't thinking about the consequences. But I would definitely advise everybody to put a helmet on if they're going to ride.
"When you're on a motorcycle, there's no room for error. Somebody cuts you off – think about how many times you've been in a car and somebody cuts you off. If you're on a bike and the same thing happens, the consequences are a lot greater."
Athletes have been injured in motorcycle accidents – NFLers Ben Roethlisberger and Kellen Winslow and former NBA player Jay Williams come to mind – but that history didn't scare off Kiwanuka.
"Being a football player, I'm a risk-taker in general," Kiwanuka said. "Before it was more the risk involved. I feel we took all the proper precautions to make sure that we minimize the risk. But now I look at the consequences. Even if you do all the things right, the consequences of being in an accident on a motorcycle most likely are death. So we're blessed that he wasn't put in that situation. It's just not worth it."
Kiwanuka was on the field with his Giants teammates last week, returned to Indianapolis for the weekend and was back on the field for today's organized team activity. Getting back into a normal football routine has helped him cope with the accident.
"I think in general whenever something tragic happens in your life, we use football to create that sense of stability," Kiwanuka said. "It was good, because those hours you're out there, you have to give a hundred percent of your attention to that, so you're not thinking about anything else. As soon as you get off the field, that's when everything comes back to you.
"When you get back to what you do and that sense of normalcy it kind of puts things at ease. But obviously I'd rather be there in Indianapolis. I just got back last night and it's tough to leave and leave my family in that position. But knowing he's going to be okay makes it easier."
*Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, who has been rehabilitating his surgically-repaired wrist and toe, worked individually with the quarterbacks for the first time today. "It felt good," Nicks said. "My goal is to be full-go by next week (when the Giants will have a mandatory full-squad minicamp)."
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