The player who was once the NFL's highest-paid punter says he's close to completing "quite the comeback story."
This wouldn't be hyperbole if Michael Koenen can make it back into the league.
Koenen told FOXSports.com that he is set to begin accepting tryout invitations from inquiring teams after two major illnesses wrecked his body and left him wondering whether life was worth living.
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Koenen had his 10-year NFL career derailed last season by what he believes were the negative effects of consuming tainted sports water. Koenen's health further disintegrated when afflicted earlier this year with clostridium difficile, a potentially fatal colon bacteria.
Koenen became a physical shell of the specialist who averaged 42.7 yards a punt and adroitly handled kickoff duties during his time with Tampa Bay (2011 to 2014) and Atlanta (2005 to 2010). He withered to 153.6 pounds, which was 44 pounds less than Koenen's listed weight with Tampa Bay during the 2015 preseason.
"C. diff makes you go to the bathroom with diarrhea 15, 16 times a day," Koenen said Wednesday in a telephone interview from his home in northwest Washington. "It's almost uncontrollable. You have to stay at home and there's not much you can do. You spend a lot of time puking and trying to get rid of stuff in your body."
As first reported by FOXSports.com, Koenen had already spent much of the previous year trying to recuperate after being sickened by what he claims was tainted sports water while playing with the Buccaneers in 2014. Koenen said the worst statistical season of his career was the result of nausea, body ache and other flu-like symptoms stemming from yeast and mold spores.
Koenen stopped drinking the water after receiving a recall notice but was unable to quickly find a cure or specialist who knew how to heal what the U.S Food and Drug Administration told FOXSports.com is a "rare" malady. Koenen was released by Tampa Bay with two seasons left on the six-year, $19.5 million contract he signed in 2011. He has hired a lawyer to pursue a potential lawsuit against the sports water company.
Koenen said the low point of his ordeal came this spring when he was unable to play with his kids for more than a few minutes before being forced to use the lavatory. Koenen was constantly dizzy, had a lingering metallic taste in his mouth and battled constant dehydration while unable to digest food.
"I had several come-to-Jesus moments where I just couldn't take it anymore," said Koenen, 33. "I had no energy. I was at the end of my rope."
Relief finally came when Koenen met with a Seattle-area gastroenterologist who prescribed a treatment plan that helped him rid excessive bacteria from his body. While not completely healthy yet, Koenen believes he isn't far off from completely booting some lingering issues that remain.
Koenen's weight is back into the 190s and he recently began leg-pressing in the 600-pound range again. Koenen plans another week of personal punting sessions before starting to take teams up on the tryout feelers made by teams to his agent Mike McCartney of Chicago-based Priority Sports and Entertainment.
Through all this, Koenen has managed to find a silver lining. He believes the experience will actually make him a better kicker.
"Nobody can truly understand everything I went through," Koenen said. "You gain a lot of perspective when you go through a trial like this. It makes you stronger as a person and builds your character. That will definitely translate to the game. Who you are as a person equates to who you are as a player."