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NFL referee Corrente steps away to continue cancer treatment

The 17th season of Tony Corrente's career began with a painful thud. It also might have saved the NFL referee's life.

While attempting to break up a skirmish between members of the Steelers and Ravens in Week 1, Corrente accidentally was shoved to the ground. The tumble left him sore, and after the game, he took Motrin to ease his discomfort.

Corrente started to cough up blood not long after that, and a subsequent doctor's examination determined he had a cancerous growth at the base of his tongue.

Corrente already has completed one seven-week round of chemotherapy. On Monday, just two days after he served as crew chief in the Saints' win over the Lions in the wild-card playoffs, he will begin another extensive round of chemotherapy and radiation.

"Getting knocked down and hurt in that Baltimore game might have saved my life," he told SI.com's Peter King. "Then I started taking Motrin, which I found out causes your blood to thin. It broke through blood vessels and would come out when I coughed. Obviously, you've got to find out why that's happening. Had I not done anything, or had I taken Tylenol, which doesn't cause your blood to thin, I probably wouldn't have discovered this for a while -- and by then, I'd have needed massive surgery, and who knows what chances I would have had."

In Corrente's words, "dark days" lie ahead. He said the thought of food is repulsive to him, and the treatment will lead to blisters forming in his mouth, making swallowing difficult. But he has a chance to beat cancer, and he's been touched by the reaction of people across the league.

"You hear it's the No Fun League, or it's Not For Long," Corrente told King. "I'll tell you what the league is -- it's the National Family League. I've learned my glass isn't half-full. It's been full my whole life, and it's full now."

We send Corrente our best wishes for a complete recovery.

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