Savard/By S. Bradley

BOSTON – After a week’s worth of rumors and innuendo about Marc Savard and his reasons for not starting training camp with the Bruins, now we know just what type of team player the star center he is.

Depicted often during the course of his career as a me-first guy who might not live up to the standards of toughness established long ago for most NHLers, Savard has been proven to be just the opposite.

Unfortunately, now instead of standing as the epitome of what every player should aspire to be, he’s limited to serving as an out-of-action sample of what can sometimes result when a player puts his team and the ideal of hockey players being indestructible before his own well-being.

As Savard explained today about his decision to return to the lineup against Philadelphia, and tough it out through all seven games, last May:

“I’m obviously still a little ways away,” said Savard, who has been unable to participate in Boston’s training since it opened last week. “I’m going to take my time here and make sure I’m good. I think, of my own fault, I might’ve come back a little too early here, so that’s my own fault. That’s, I guess, just the hockey player in me, wanting to play hockey in the playoffs. Right now, I’m just going to take it slow here. Hopefully I’ll be around the guys and get the help that I need right now, and it’ll help.”

In fact, Savard said he was feeling the effects of his March 7 Grade 2 concussion throughout the series, mostly in the form of fatigue. It hit him especially hard when his minutes were increased after David Krejci’s season-ending injury. Savard’s able to joke about that a tad now.

“I pretty much should have been sitting with you guys after that,” he quipped to the assembled media. “I didn’t really have anything left.”

If only fatigue had been Savard’s only problem. After he took a month off, Savard started to work out, golf and then even skate over the course of the summer. He acted as though he had just broken a foot or dislocated a shoulder, figuring if he kept working hard the symptoms would go away. Instead the dizziness, nausea, headaches and – more disturbing – depression persisted. It finally became too much to take, so Savard explained everything to his agent Larry Kelly in mid-August. Soon thereafter they told Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli, who finally revealed to the media what Savard was going through on the first day the Bruins reported to camp Sept. 17.

While giving his first public statements today in the Bruins’ dressing room, you could tell Savard wasn’t himself. His hat pulled low over his face, he wasn’t the bubbly, witty Savard we’ve come to embrace as a go-to quote since he arrived in Boston in the summer of ’06. At times he mumbled, and one reporter’s question (about depression) obviously choked him up a bit. If, as some have written to this reporter or claimed on radio, Savard is faking as some bizarre revenge on the team that dared shop his services this summer, he should be given both this year’s Academy Award and every one that has been handed out the last five years.

The Savard saga isn’t one about a player that signs a seven-year contract extension, finds out he’s come up in trade rumors and then says he’s not showing up to camp because his feelings or hurt or he has a headache. This is all about a guy dogged throughout his career by the selfish tag, a guy accused of not always going hard for the full 60 minutes (on occasion with good reason) attempting to make the ultimate sacrifice in pursuit of the ultimate team goal. Now he’s truly paying the price.

Ultimately, Savard’s rest and recovery might land him back on the Boston front line. There’s always the chance he doesn’t return, or he comes back but is never the same player. There are too many tragic tales of players losing the concussion battle and having to hang up the skates forever far too early to list them.

At this point, the Bruins players and other skaters throughout the NHL should look at Savard with hope that he can make a comeback, and also with perspective that they could easily be in Savard’s shoes. It’s dangerous to return too soon from any injury, but when it comes to head ailments there should be no messing around. You never know, you might suffer a reoccurrence of the injury’s symptoms and have hundreds of people scream that you’re a faker.

For now, Savard is an example of what goes wrong when someone messes around with a concussion. For his and the Bruins’ sake, hopefully he turns into an example of a player that overcame a nagging case of post-concussion syndrome to make a triumphant return to elite NHL status.