Olivea reveals he was addicted to painkillers last season
The 26-year Olivea lost his starting job at right tackle in midseason and was eventually released by the Chargers in February, a move he said he asked the team to make.
"It's a second chance in my life and football and I'm just happy to have that opportunity," said Olivea, who was signed by the Super Bowl champions on July 10. "A lot of guys aren't given that opportunity, so I feel very blessed and very fortunate to have that opportunity."
Olivea said that he did not confront his problem until his family intervened in April, about a week before the NFL Draft. He was treated at the Betty Ford Center in California.
While under treatment, the NFL suspended him for four games for failing to take a mandatory urine test. Olivea said he was never informed he had to take the test. He appealed the suspension and it was rescinded.
A rising star who only two years ago signed a six-year, $20 million contract, Olivea indicated he used prescription pain medication for relief from a number of nagging injuries. He thought he did a good job of hiding his addiction, but he admitted his family noticed changes in him.
"I mean, the people close around me knew. I mean, I wasn't the same person," Olivea 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."
Olivea started 57 of 60 games in his four seasons with the Chargers. He is trying to make a team which is returning all five starters from the Super Bowl.
In the opening days of training camp at the University at Albany, Olivea has been playing with the third-string unit.
"I'm just starting over fresh," Olivea said. "It's a new system, new terminology, new coaching staff, so they're getting accustomed to me every day and I'm getting accustomed to them."
A Long Island native who played at Ohio State, Olivea said he worked out three times a day to get into shape.
"We are just going to have to see how he does now," Coughlin said. "You know, it's a whole new system. He has been under another system and he has got a lot of things he has to learn. He has to learn them fast, so hopefully he will be able to do that."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
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