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Steelers Diabetic condition sidelines Steelers starting right guard

Simmons out for at least a week or two

Saturday, July 26, 2003

By Ed Bouchette, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

The Steelers and the agent for guard Kendall Simmons expressed confidence yesterday that the the sudden onset of a diabetic condition will not derail his football career.

"We don't anticipate this being a long-term problem at all," said Kevin Colbert, the Steelers' director of football operations.

Simmons, their starting right guard, was released from UPMC-Montefiore Hospital yesterday after two days of tests and treatment for hyperglycemia (high blood sugar). The condition was discovered this week after Simmons lost 20 pounds recently and complained to trainer John Norwig about other symptoms, including frequent urination.

Colbert estimated that Simmons, the Steelers' first-round draft pick last year, might miss one or two weeks of training camp and should be ready to start the season, an opinion echoed by the player's agent.

"There's no cause for alarm," said Eric Metz, a Monroeville native. "Everything's fine. It's an easily controllable situation. He'll keep going and have a long and productive career."

Simmons, voted the team's rookie of the year in 2002, had left elbow surgery in June to remove cartilage. At his news conference Monday, Coach Bill Cowher said Simmons had recovered from the surgery and was working out and lifting weights and in full health. Two days later, Simmons learned of his latest setback.

Simmons was resting at his North Hills home last night. He will be placed on medication, will have to watch his diet and also must test his blood-sugar levels often. Untreated for a long period, hyperglycemia can cause damage to nerves, blood vessels and organs.

"You cannot underestimate the seriousness of this condition," Colbert said, "but it's also something that once under control, people function very normally, and there are professional athletes ... as well."

Simmons need look no further than next door at the Steelers' South Side UPMC training complex they share with the University of Pittsburgh. Panthers starting defensive tackle Dan Stephens, a redshirt junior this year, has had diabetes since age 10. He must constantly monitor his blood-sugar levels and does so during games.

Among many diabetics who have played sports are Hall of Fame hockey player Bobby Clarke and longtime Chicago Cubs third baseman Ron Santo.

The Steelers were careful not to declare Simmons' case that of diabetes, referring to it as a diabetic condition because they are not yet sure it has developed into the disease.

Simmons' condition is Type 2 diabetes, commonly known as adult onset diabetes. He will have the disease the rest of his life.

"It was a quick onset," said Colbert, who credited team physician Dr. Tony Yates with quickly discovering the condition. "I guess there's some family history."

While the Steelers and Metz seem satisfied that Simmons can control the condition and will return to play, there still must be concern about how effective he can be when he returns. Backup Keydrick Vincent will serve as the No. 1 right guard until Simmons is able to practice.

"He lost some weight, he lost some strength," Colbert said. "He's going to go through a series of getting the sugar under control and then working his way back, getting his weight back and getting his strength back. He will be worked back into the training-camp regimen. We're not sure about the time period, maybe a week, maybe two. They just have to monitor his weight and how the sugar levels are before he can go back into full-speed work."

Metz credited the Steelers' staff with their quick diagnoses and treatment.

"I can't say enough good things about John Norwig and their staff. They took great care of Kendall and stayed in touch with us and his family. They really care about their players."

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