Seems most everyone has offered a take on Tedy Bruschi's return to the NFL. From opinionated television analysts and sportswriters, to uninformed talk-show hosts and concerned fans.
Surely, in the week since Bruschi announced his decision to return to the practice field just eight months after suffering a mild stroke, you have heard the talk:
''How could he put his family through this?"
''This is a foolish decision."
''I wouldn't do it."
''He shouldn't do it."
But aside from Bruschi and the doctors who have been treating him since February, Stran Smith's opinion may be the most informed.
When he hears the oft-uttered phrase ''uncharted waters" referring to a professional athlete returning to a physical sport after a stroke, Smith chuckles.
''I've seen it done before," Smith says. ''So I believe, without a doubt, that Tedy Bruschi will be fine."
Smith's opinion is based on another case of an athlete returning to his profession following a stroke -- a champion calf roper named Stran Smith.
Two and a half years ago, Smith, then 32, faced an incident similar to the one Bruschi experienced a couple of days after returning from his first Pro Bowl. As was the case with Bruschi, who turned 32 in June, Smith's mild stroke was caused by a blood clot that passed through his heart via a small hole, known medically as a patent foramen ovale (PFO). Both Smith and Bruschi had a plug implanted to repair the congenital heart defect.
About the only significant variants between the cases are Bruschi's symptoms, and early aftereffects of the stroke included some numbness, difficulty walking, and loss of vision in his left eye, although Smith could not speak.
Another difference is Bruschi has waited seven months after the heart procedure to return to competition. Smith returned to the rodeo circuit in just two months, and in 2004, his first full year back, he finished second in the overall standings, a career best.
''Since he had the stroke I've been watching -- and I have never spoken with Tedy Bruschi -- but later, when I heard it was caused by a PFO, I wasn't worried about him at all," Smith said. ''I knew that he would want to come back, and I knew that he would come back. Because once they fix it and your heart accepts the device, within two months your heart has completely healed over and you're fine.
''I feel like my story was better told in the rodeo world than Bruschi's has been in the football world. People are so uneducated about it that they think there's a chance he could go through that again.
''All the doctors I've spoken with said once the device is accepted in your heart and the skin grows over it, there's no chance that that would be the cause of another stroke. There's not even a chance of it."
Despite its seriousness, Smith now laughs about his stroke.
He has an unmistakable Southern drawl that is pure West Texas, and Smith, who grew up in the small panhandle town of Tell, is definitely all cowboy. So when he asked a woman if she thought he had slurred a word in the previous sentence, she said no. Certain something was wrong, he tried to ask the question a second time. Nothing came out.
''I could reach down, touch my toes, feel my fingers, but I couldn't say a word," Smith said.
After being advised that he should go to a hospital, Smith hopped in his truck and drove to one in Childress, Texas. He wrote notes to the hospital staff, explaining he could not speak. He was told he should go to a major hospital in Amarillo, some two hours away. So he drove himself there, confused about his condition but not understanding how serious it was.
''When I show up in Amarillo, I'm still thinking I'm all right, it must be a really bad migraine," Smith said. ''When I got to the hospital check-in desk, there was a gunshot victim in the waiting room. When they saw it was me, they said, 'Oh, Mr. Smith, hurry on in.'
''I thought, 'This might be pretty bad if there's a gunshot victim out there and they're wheeling me on in and rushing me to the back.' "
The doctor told him not to worry, that his condition could be controlled by medication and he would most likely be healthy from that point on. However, Smith, whose ability to speak returned within 24 hours, would have to find a new occupation. Because of the physical nature of his sport, there was no way he could be cleared by doctors to rope calves while taking blood thinners.
But he and his wife, Jennifer, then pregnant with son Stone, researched and found a relatively new procedure to treat PFO at Tufts-New England Medical Center. Dr. Carey Kimmelstiel, the director of Tufts-NEMC's Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory, and Dr. David Thaler, co-director of Tufts-NEMC's Stroke Center, did the work on Smith, who walked out of the hospital the next day with an Amplatzer plug in his heart.
Two months later, he was riding and roping, with knowledge imparted by his doctors that it was much more likely for a bull rider to be critically injured than for Smith to have another stroke.
''I was so amazed that it's so low risk that you have a lot greater chance of having a car wreck on your next trip than another stroke," said Smith, who stands fifth in the world standings in tie-down roping, with two major events remaining in the season.
Smith has long been one of the more popular cowboys on the rodeo circuit -- in 2000, People magazine named him one of its most-eligible bachelors -- but he knows Bruschi has a higher profile as an NFL star.
In a way, Smith said, maybe people should consider that before offering opinions about Bruschi's health.
''If you think about it, all the doctors that have went out on a limb here, they would tar and feather these guys if something happened to him," Smith said. ''I think if there is any chance whatsoever of something going wrong with Tedy Bruschi, the doctors would have advised against him coming back. Doctors have to be huge pessimists."
And as for the likes of ESPN analyst Michael Irvin, who is among those who have spoken out against Bruschi's return, Smith says they should let Bruschi make his own decisions.
''Michael Irvin said, 'I couldn't do that to my family.' Well, I promise you, Michael Irvin doesn't think of and love his family any more than Tedy Bruschi or I think of and love our families," said Smith, whose wife gave birth to their second son Oct. 17. ''Take it from someone who knows a little bit about it. It's something I've already been through. I know where [Bruschi's] coming from, because it's something that there's not very much out there about.
''All the uncertainties, the unknowns, that's what it's really about [for the doubters]. That's why people are saying what they're saying. If they knew, they would just cheer him on."
Jerome Solomon can be reached at email@example.com