"They were so young – so naive, in a way," he says. "It reminds you of how you got here in the first place."

In other ways, it was less pleasant — and anxiety, Collins says, eats more energy than any mental function.

It hasn't shocked Roberts to learn secondhand that some fans question his desire to play. It's the nature of sports, he says, that to fans, you're only as good as your last game, and even he knew nothing about concussions before he got one.

But last August, when he realized it would harm his health to appear at Brian's Baseball Bash, the annual event for the University of Maryland Children's Hospital that has raised nearly $1 million since 2006, he canceled the event, writing a check instead to cover the amount.

Word reached him and Diana that some called the cancellation "selfish."

"Does it affect you in some way, shape or form? Of course it does," says Roberts, adding that his and his wife's Christian faith helped them keep such concerns in perspective.

But he fretted over his responsibilities to Angelos — and to his teammates.

"You don't know what the heck they think," he says. "They're having a tough year. You don't have a cast on or a torn ligament in your elbow. You didn't have surgery. Do they think you're losing your mind? Do they think you don't want to play?"

He'd be lying, he says, if he claimed never to have had such thoughts about a teammate. "Never again," he insists.

Roberts has met Collins' goal for him — becoming symptom-free in time to resume normal off-season workouts. By spring training, the doctor says, he'll have achieved recovery from both concussions — which according to the latest research means the player will be at no greater risk of concussion than he was before he ever had one.

"You may see me slide headfirst less often, but I won't alter my approach," Roberts says.

That should come as good news to O's skipper Buck Showalter, who remains convinced the team is much stronger with No. 1 in the lineup.

And Showalter isn't one with deeper doubts.

"This is a guy who played 140, 150 games a year for [seven straight] years," the manager says. "Think you can do that? Anyone who thinks Brian doesn't want to play has no idea what he's talking about."

jonathan.pitts@baltsun.com

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