Zbikowski: Paycheck, not winning, was No. 1

Zbikowski: Paycheck, not winning, was No. 1
November 19, 2013, 9:30 am
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If you were a fan of former Ravens safety Tom Zbikowski, you probably don’t want to read this. He’s retired from football now and said he doesn’t particularly miss it. And as he recounted the way he came to feel about playing in the NFL to the Chicago Tribune last week, let’s just put it this way: You cared a whole lot more about the Ravens winning than he did.

“Football got old to me,” he said. “… I enjoyed my first two years in the NFL because it was a challenge. I was playing with the best. But after a while, you don't care whether you win or lose because you're still getting a paycheck. I enjoyed high school and college much more.''

Zbikowski played four seasons in Baltimore, 2008 through 2011, then one with the Colts in 2012. This year, he went to camp with the Bears but was released before the season. So, no more big NFL paychecks, but he said he’s saved most of his football money.

And while you were cheering him and the Ravens on in games in which he wasn’t emotionally invested, there’s also this: Zbikowski may very well have been hung over.

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"Get a little messed up, sneak a girl into your room, feel on top of the world,'' Zbikowski said. "I had some of my best games off of benders — some of my worst, too. My two best seasons ever were 2005 [at Notre Dame] and 2009 [in Baltimore], when I was the most out-of-control drinking, so I thought, hey, maybe I should go back to that.''

But Zbikowski said he realized he was overdoing it, which led him to run afoul of the NFL’s drug policy.

"I was drinking too much,'' Zbikowski said. "I got fat.''

To lose the weight, he said, he took a banned diuretic. Zbikowski would have been suspended for four games if he played this year.

Now, though, it’s on to the next phase of his life. He said he no longer binge drinks and plans to soon enter the training academy for the Chicago Fire Department. Two previous generations in his family have been firefighters.

"I've had an extremely blessed life and I saved three-quarters of my money, so I can do whatever I want and I want to be of service to a community,'' Zbikowski said. "Firemen show up in scary situations. They're symbols of pride, of faith, of what's good in society. I like to live dangerously.''

And in that field, it’s a whole lot more important that you win.