PUEBLO, Colo. – Robson Palermo didn’t want to answer the phone during the last few months.
He didn’t want to talk to anyone.
He didn’t want to do anything.
Palermo preferred to pull the covers over his head and just go back to sleep.
Injuries and a tailspin to his bull riding career were beginning to take a toll on him.
As the winter season passed and spring time arrived, Palermo was unsure when he would return to competition – if at all.
Palermo was out recovering from left knee surgery, but the time away from the sport began to wear on him.
Doubts and concerns started to creep into his mind.
“I was really, really down,” Palermo admitted last weekend at the Dakota Community Bank PBR Bull Riding Challenge Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour event. “I think it was everything. I couldn’t ride and I was hurt. I was thinking I couldn’t ride anymore. I was thinking about stopping riding.”
Palermo was used to being physically beaten down over the past few seasons, but now the physical toll was beginning to wear on him mentally.
Year after year he was struggling to stay healthy.
Shoulders, biceps, leg muscles, concussions and a multitude of other injuries had forced Palermo into a shell of his former bull riding self.
The former World Champion contender has one qualified ride on the Built Ford Tough Series in the last eight months and is 1-for-13 at all levels of PBR competition in 2017.
Palermo returned to competition this past weekend in Bismarck, North Dakota, for the first time since March 25.
The 34-year-old went 0-for-2, but is spending the week in North Dakota with his family before heading to Binford on Saturday for the Bleacher Builders Inc. Touring Pro Division event.
“I feel good now,” Palermo said. “I have been having a hard time this year. I have a real problem with my knee. A couple things in my knee have not been good. I had tried to keep going and it had gotten worse and worse.”
The Rio Branco, Brazil, native is currently 175th in the world standings after competing sparingly this season.
Palermo – a 46-percent career bull rider on the BFTS – was tired of being embarrassed.
He was depressed.
“I was really embarrassed when I was going go to the BFTS,” Palermo explained. “I was like, ‘Why should I go there? I am not riding nothing. I am going to buck off.’
“I felt horrible. I wanted to dig a big hole and hide from everybody.”
Palermo hasn’t finished better than 20th in the world in the last four years and said it has been a hard realization after six consecutive Top-7 finishes from 2007-2012.
“When you ride in the Top 5 every year and then you fall down,” Palermo said. “You fall down. You fall down. Then you are all the way at the bottom and it is hard. You know you can do it, but your body won’t do it right. This has happened to me. I am trying to figure it out. I have embarrassed myself. It does not look like I could ride a stick horse no more.”
Palermo added that he has also been worried about having sustained multiple concussions in his career.
“I was so scared because I feel bad about my concussion deal,” he said. “The way I would read about concussions and everything. I went and did the tests and talked to the doctor. I asked a bunch of questions. I had a concussion test in Dallas and an MRI. I passed everything.”
Palermo’s wife, Priscila, has continued to be a pillar of strength for him as the doubts really began to engulf him.
“She has been helping me a lot with that,” Robson said. “She is the one that pushed me. I almost gave up this past month. I was talking about retiring, and I was like, ‘Well, do I want to stop and plan on doing something different?’ She said, ‘I think you can still do something.’”
Robson attempted five practice bulls in Texas last week before heading to Bismarck.
It was nerve-racking to say the least for him.
Palermo was helping out at the local cowboy church in Tyler and some kids wanted to get on some practice bulls.
The first day he left his gear bag in his truck.
“The next day, I went over and I said, ‘I am going to take all my stuff,’ and I went to help those kids,” Palermo recalled. “I felt that fire in my belly. I was shaking. Nervous. Cold.”
He then attempted another practice bull at home and told Priscila, “Let’s go fix my bag and go to Bismarck.”
Palermo said he isn’t thinking too far in advance. The goal is to take things week-to-week and see how his body reacts to getting back on the bull riding grind.
He will have three BFTS injury exemptions at his disposal before being subject to the BFTS cutline later this year.
“I feel like I can still ride those bulls,” Palermo said. “I will see how this goes. I am going to keep trying to be ready. I feel good. My body is good. My knee is good. It was just my head. I think I have gotten to the point of being fixed. It is not 100 percent yet, but I think I am almost getting there.
“Bull riding is kind of crazy. You have to keep it simple and be happy. I lost a little bit of the fun part. I have been having fun again.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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