AURORA, Colo. - Derek Wolfe says he's finally healthy after suffering a seizure in November that doctors now believe was related to the spinal cord injury he suffered in the preseason.
In an interview outside his home with Denver television stations KCNC and KMGH this week, the Broncos' defensive lineman said he's back up to 280 pounds, having regained 20 of the 30 pounds he lost last season, and will resume training next week.
"I'm ready to go. I'm going to be better than I was," said Wolfe, who had been reticent to talk to reporters during the season as he and his doctors were stumped by his symptoms that included weight loss and irritability.
Wolfe was sidelined for 10 days in August after his arms and legs went numb following a frightening hit in a preseason game at Seattle on Aug. 17. He was cleared in time for the opener against Baltimore.
Then, on a bus ride to the airport for a flight to Kansas City on Nov. 29, Wolfe suffered a seizure and was taken to University Hospital in Denver, where he underwent a battery of tests over four days.
Wolfe practiced just twice after that, on Dec. 25 and 27, after which the Broncos sent him home to rest, realizing he wouldn't be able to return to help shore up their defence in the playoffs.
"I had a bruise on my spinal cord," Wolfe told the stations. "... I thought it was fully healed and I came back a little too soon and I just kept hitting it, kept hitting it, kept hitting it. And it screwed my nervous system up a little bit, just kind of crisscrossed the wires a little bit.
"And really just mentally, it was hard to deal with because I didn't know what was going on and why I was losing weight and all this, and my adrenals weren't functioning right, nothing was really working right and what it came down to was I needed to let it heal, I needed to let myself heal. So, I took about two months and I just did nothing. And I feel better than I've ever felt before."
Wolfe said the seizure he suffered on the bus ride to the airport wasn't the kind where there's foaming at the mouth or convulsions but one in which he just suddenly felt very tired and started sweating profusely, which he dismissed as the effects of having just showered after practice and putting on his three-piece suit.
"I was thinking I just need to get to the plane so I can take a nap," Wolfe recounted.
He started to slump into the aisle, however, and Von Miller grabbed him and "Terrance Knighton started yelling, 'Stop the bus! Stop the bus!" Wolfe recounted.
Twenty-six hours later, Wolfe woke up in intensive care. So confused about where he was and why he was strapped down, he broke the hospital bed before he could be calmed down, he said.
At first, he didn't realize he'd been there that long and his first question was whether he'd be able to play against the Chiefs that weekend. Doctors told him they'd had to put him in a medically induced coma to run tests and do spinal taps to rule out such things as brain tumors.
After his comeback stalled in December and he realized he wasn't going to get back on the field for the playoffs, Wolfe retreated to his home a few miles from team headquarters and he said didn't even watch football for a while.
He did go to the Super Bowl, however, in New Jersey, where he and several other defensive starters such as Von Miller, Chris Harris Jr., Kevin Vickerson and Rahim Moore watched helplessly from the sideline as the Broncos were throttled 43-8 by the Seattle Seahawks.
"It was tough to sit there and watch it happen because I think if our defence was healthy, it's a different ballgame," Wolfe said. "... Nothing against Seattle, they're a great football team and they played a really good game and they had a great season, but I just really would have liked to see what it would have been like to have our true defence out there."