Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Dontay Moch described the debilitating pain that ended his 2012 season with one short, succinct phrase:
It wasn’t a shredded knee or concussion or broken bone he was talking about. It was migraines.
“I’ve had my foot broken, I’ve had my front four teeth smashed in and broken, I’ve had my jaw messed up, and none of those pains have even gotten near what I feel when I get a migraine,” said Moch, a third-round draft pick in 2011 who led the Bengals with 3.5 sacks last preseason.
“It just sucks because no one knows how bad a true migraine is unless you’ve had one,” Moch added. “People think ‘Oh, it’s just a headache.’ The only way to get rid of them is find a dark room and try to fall asleep. But with the type of job I have, I can’t do that.”
The Bengals put him on Injured Reserve on Nov. 2 last year, two weeks after his girlfriend – and now fiancée – Sarah gave birth to their first child.
Moch said there is no history of migraines in his family, but fortunately his aunt is married to a doctor who, along with a naturopathic doctor in Arizona, helped him identify some of the causes.
“There would be small things that would trigger them, and it took us a while to pinpoint them,” Moch said. “We just kept track and would cross them all out.
“I made a lot of changes with my intake, watching my food, staying on top of my supplements and doing whatever I had to do,” he continued. “Plus I saw chiropractors and I’ve been going to a naturalist and working with reflexology and things like that. It’s been about seven months since I’ve had one, so I can’t complain. Now I’m just trying to do my thing on the field.”
Drafted as a defensive end out of the University of Nevada, the 6-foot-2, 255-pound Moch was moved to linebacker last year, but he’s back at end.
“You can see that’s what he played when he was younger,” Bengals defensive line coach Jay Hayes said. “He does some good things in pass rush, but it’s the run game he’s got to work on. He’s got great speed and quickness, he’s just undersized.”
Moch got additional work Friday as starting left defensive end Carlos Dunlap missed another practice with a concussion and 10-year veteran Robert Geathers was given the day off.
“I’m trying to turn some heads and do the things I know I’m capable of, things they haven’t seen me do,” Moch said. “I definitely feel like I have to start over, but I don’t view last year as lost. I took that time off to train a lot and I kept my mind in the playbook so that when I did come back I wouldn’t have to worry so much about the assignments and I could just play the position.
“Transitioning back to defensive end is great because I’m comfortable there and I understand the job,” he added. “So far camp has been going good. I haven’t had any mental errors or physical errors. I feel like I’m gaining ground every day.”
As is the case with many of the players on the roster, Thursday’s preseason opener at Atlanta will be a big test for Moch.
“It will be good for him to play in some preseason games and see what he can do and how he can help us, even if it’s on special teams,” Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said.
Moch said if he can beat migraines, he can beat the odds and make the roster. With his daughter’s first birthday coming up in October and a wedding to follow, there is newfound joy in pain-free life.
“The family aspect makes you push even more to figure out the problems so you don’t have to worry about them,” he said. “That way you can just go out there and do what you’re blessed to do and live your life.”