Las Vegas Raiders tight end Darren Waller made his return in Sunday’s overtime win against the Los Angeles Chargers after missing five games due to injuries and a positive COVID-19 test.
Waller explained this week that not playing was made harder by his efforts to remain sober.
“Because of my disease addiction, that can have me thinking all kinds of crazy things,” Waller told ESPN’s Paul Gutierrez Wednesday. “So I’ve got to make sure that I’m talking about those things when I have idle time.”
Waller had two receptions Sunday for 22 yards at Allegiant Stadium, finishing the regular season with 55 catches for 665 yards and two touchdowns.
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The Raiders’ candidate for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award continued:
“I’ve got my therapist. Stay going to (alcoholics anonymous) meetings. Stayed in the playbook. Working on music. Just staying solid, keeping my head out of that idle time and just into things that I enjoy. And stay in the game of football as much as I can.”
Waller discussed how he fought intrusive thoughts while he was unable to play.
“It’s tough, honestly, because I’m a human being at the end of the day and I’m still trying to shed my old thinking patterns,” Waller said. “So, when I’m not out there (playing), I can think these thoughts of, ‘The team is balling without me being in there. Am I useless?’ These irrational thoughts.
“I had to be willing to stay in the practices that I have that bring me back down from that place ‘Woah, woah, woah, it’s not even that anymore.’ I’m not out there performing, per se, but I still have a role on this team. But sometimes my mind can tell me, ‘Ah, man, you ain’t really doing nothing. You out.’
“So it’s just staying locked in,” said Waller. “I have to do that because my mind can take me to those places. And I don’t want to be there anymore.”
The Raiders (10-7) will play the Cincinnati Bengals (10-7) Saturday at 4:30 p.m. ET during Wild Card Weekend.