Carstens career on hold while he waits for kidney disease test results

Column By Steve Reed
June 25, 2007 - 4:39PM
CHARLOTTE ó One glance at Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Jordan Carstens and you see a guy who looks like heís ready to play some football.

His weight is back up to 300 pounds, thanks to a rigorous workout regimen. He can run sprints. He can lift weights. He can do just about anything his teammates can do except for one thing ó hit people.

Doctors still havenít cleared Carstens for contact and it remains uncertain whether or not heíll be allowed to participate in the Panthers training camp that begins July 27 in Spartanburg, S.C.

Last year, Carstensí playing time ended abruptly five weeks into the season when he reported to work one morning complaining of chest pain. Knowing Carstensí medical history, team trainer Ryan Vermillion quickly sent him to Carolinas Medical Center, a move that might have saved the playerís life. It was there doctors discovered a blood clot in Carstensí lung.

He was hospitalized for nearly a week.

ďIt was really scary,Ē Carstens said. ďIn the midst of it, I didnít really have time to think about it. Once you have time to reflect and think back on it, you realize how scary it was.

ďIt really makes you think about your priorities. Iím just really fortunate for the training staff here. They did an excellent job taking care of me, and diagnosing it, to keep me out of harmís way as much as possible. I owe a lot to Ryan and the doctors.Ē

In 2005, a season in which he started 15 games in place of injured Kris Jenkins, Carstens was diagnosed with a kidney disease called membranous. Doctors didnít know the extent of the problem until a biopsy was taken after the season.

Basically, the disease doesnít allow his body to produce enough protein in his blood, which makes him extremely susceptible to clotting. Doctors have tried several medicines to regulate the problem but with no success.

However, they remain hopeful theyíll resolve the issue, get Carstens back on blood thinners and allow him to return to the football field.

ĎTheyíre optimistic and so am I,Ē Carstens said.

But nothing is guaranteed.

As long as heís taking the medicine, Carstens remains in a holding pattern and isnít allowed to practice. Heís slated for another round of tests in late July, just days before the start of training camp. Thatís when doctors will tell him whether or not he can play this year.

As a sign of good faith, the Panthers gave Carstens, a restricted free agent, a second-round tender worth $1.3 million for the 2007 season. However, if Carstens is fails to make the roster the Panthers wonít be on the hook for that money.

If heís cleared, Carstens could wind up being the top reserve at defensive tackle, depending on whether or not Jenkins returns to the club.

ďMy agent and I talked about this after it happened,Ē Carstens said. ďWe talked about if it was even worth it to stick around. But we talked about how good this organization was and how much trust we had with them. We thought it was worth it to hang around. Once this thing does get turned around, I can step right in and play.Ē

So for now, Carstens isnít contemplating retirement.

Heís just waiting ó and hoping.

ďI donít think Iím at that point yet, but if the risks outweigh the awards, then I think Iíll be ready to move on,Ē he said. ďBut for right now, Iím staying optimistic and hopefully we can get this thing turned around.

ďItís kind of frustrating right now because I feel like I can play, but they tell me I canít. Itís not like I feel worn down and or that I canít play, so itís really hard. As long as they keep telling me thereís a chance I can play, Iím going to keep working out and keep giving myself and opportunity so I can step right in and play.Ē