Giants’ Olivea kicks addiction and starts over

ALBANY – Shane Olivea has been in this position before, stuck on the third string. The last time it happened was in 2004, when he was a rookie with the Chargers. He didn’t like it. In fact, shortly after training camp started that year, Olivea called his agent to say he was unhappy being the depth on the depth chart, that he’d always been a starter, and that he didn’t want to waste his time or effort in such ditches.

“You need to get me out of here” was how Olivea put it, according to his agent, Ken Zuckerman.

But Zuckerman talked him down and Olivea remained with the Chargers. Then injuries started to pile up in camp, and by the time the season started, Olivea was the starter at right tackle.

The lesson learned: Just because things look one way in the NFL doesn’t mean that’s how they will turn out.
Olivea is still learning. Signed by the Giants last week after four years with the Chargers, Olivea – who won Newsday’s Martone Award as Nassau’s top lineman while at Lawrence in 1999 after moving from Long Beach the summer before his senior year – knows that even though he’s taking third-string reps and grappling with rookies who would have had trouble making his teams at Ohio State, things can turn around. Quickly.

Heck, just look at where Olivea has gone to and returned from since he was last on a football field. Look where he was about a week ago.

On April 23, Olivea walked into the living room of his home in San Diego and saw his family and close friends, just about everyone who loves him.

A surprise party? No. It was an intervention.

“Just like you see on A&E,” he said.

Olivea had become addicted to pain medication, something that had been building for a year and a half. It started with one pill to ease the soreness of playing offensive line in the NFL, then evolved. By January, it was not only affecting his professional life – he asked for his release from the Chargers after he lost his starting job during the season, and the team was happy to oblige – but his personal life.

“I wasn’t the same person,” he said. “You can hide a lot of things, but your real friends and real family, they know the real you. They saw a major change and thank God they did, and by the grace of God, I was able to get my life turned around.

“Seeing how hurt they were and the pain I had caused them was pretty humbling and gut- wrenching. The last thing I want to do is hurt the people around me.”

That afternoon in April, he checked himself in for a 90-day stay at the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif. He left the facility a week ago Saturday, flew to New York on Sunday, and on Monday was at Giants Stadium for a tryout and physical with the Giants. He signed a one-year contract later that day.  Continue Reading