Lineman put off surgery to play the 2011 season
He wanted to establish a standard for his future child. Tony Pashos wanted a story ready for the future, when perhaps that child started complaining about a homework assignment, a rough day. Anything. What he endured on the job in 2011 would end any conversation.
It started when Pashos, a right tackle who signed with the Redskins last week, ruptured a tendon in his left foot in the last preseason game of 2011. Cleveland, his team at the time, lacked depth.
Pashos' father, who emigrated from Greece in 1972, worked double shifts as a steel foreman and often came home dirty and smelly and even fainted once. His father never complained about how he had to work. So when the Browns asked Pashos to put off surgery, he obliged. And played.
"It was probably one of the hardest things I've ever done in my life," Pashos said.
He needed a shoe that was one size larger -- going from a 14 to a 15. His left shoe was custom fitted and raised on the bottom. Because of that, he also had to wear a larger shoe on his other foot to maintain proper balance. His left shoe lacked padding inside, and the plastic brace on his foot rubbed constantly on the shoe, causing severe blisters.
"I was almost playing barefoot in the NFL," he said. "It's really painful physically, but then mentally you're going against guys that are healthy and some of the most athletic guys in the NFL. Every week I had to find a way to battle with guys knowing I'm in a severe mismatch."
But Pashos, operating at less than 50 percent, persevered. He started all 12 games in which he appeared.
"It was the greatest feat of toughness I've ever seen in 25 years in the business," said his agent, Rick Smith.
Smith once said Pashos took a "ridiculous amount of painkillers," which, eventually, led to a triple ulcer around Christmas time. The Browns cut him that offseason -- as he was in the recovery room following surgery on his foot.
Not that Pashos regrets his decision, even if it cost him all of 2012. He did not consider retirement. Instead, he approached his rehab with a thought-out strategy. Pashos lost 35 pounds to lessen the burden on his ankle while rehabbing (he has since regained the weight and is 310 pounds). He did more agility work and said he feels quicker and faster.
This summer, he will compete with Jeremy Trueblood, Tyler Polumbus and Tom Compton for both right tackle and the backup swing tackle position.
If nothing else, the Redskins landed a tackle willing to do anything.
"It's the fabric of me," Pashos said. "I wanted to tell [my kids] one day that I had to go in week in and week out and I was hurt and I didn't say boo. So if they ever came to me and complained how hard they had it, I could say there was never a point in my life I backed down.
"There were times I struggled, and I'd say I can't wait until I'm healthy because I'll crush you. I regret having to be one legged against the best players on Earth knowing I could have done better with both legs."