Sidney Crosby is not confined to a darkened room, lying quietly on his bed, hoping for some relief from the woozy pain of a concussion.
By his own account on Monday, the Pittsburgh Penguins' star is able to do most of the things all healthy people can do - watch television, drive himself to his place of employment, hang around the water cooler and talk to his fellow employees. But he cannot do the one thing that defines his existence - play hockey, including the National Hockey League all-star game this weekend in Raleigh, N.C. - and that gnaws at him.
"It's really difficult," Crosby, 23, said Monday in a media scrum that was posted on the Penguins' website. "It doesn't get any easier with each day that goes by. It gets tougher and tougher to work your way back in it.
"At the end of the day you keep reminding yourself that everything is clear, and when you do come back you'll be ready to go hard and do the things it takes to get back."
When he will come back is not something Crosby, his agent, Pat Brisson, or the doctors can say right now. Crosby said he has been feeling much better in the past few days. The only symptoms he has from the concussion he sustained on Jan. 1 are headaches and a sore neck, but he still has not been cleared for physical activity of any kind.
"They come and go, but the last few days have been better," Crosby said of the headaches. "They haven't been as intense. That's a good thing.
"The good thing is that the last four or five days have been pretty good. That's not to say that tomorrow couldn't have more symptoms and things like that. But I've been pretty happy with the way I've progressed the last four or five days. Hopefully, it keeps going that way, and it will be sooner than later. But it's still pretty hard to tell."
This is not the longest period Crosby has missed with an injury. In the 2007-08 season, he was out for 29 games with a sprained ankle. But this injury is the most frustrating.
"It's brutal," Crosby said. "You sit around and can't do anything. Early on, I could barely watch TV. I've been able to do that more.
"It's the things you take for granted and do every day, like driving. That would set me off. That kind of stuff you take for granted. You realize going through something like this that being able to drive is a good step. I've been driving since it happened. Just getting through that without getting a headache or feeling a little off are the things you take for granted."
Crosby will not be able to play until he is symptom-free and has a baseline concussion test with results that compare favourably to one he had when he was healthy. The final word will come from the team doctor, Charles Burke.
Crosby was injured on Jan. 1 in the NHL's Winter Classic outdoor game when he was hit by Washington Capitals forward David Steckel. He did not experience any concussion symptoms for three days, according to team officials, and played again on Jan. 5, when Tampa Bay Lightning defenceman Victor Hedman drove him head-first into the boards. Those close to Crosby feel Steckel's hit caused the concussion.
While there was some criticism of the Penguins because Crosby was allowed to play a game after the initial hit, he said he does not think the team's training and medical staff did anything wrong.
"No, I don't think anything was missed at all," he said. "When you're dealing with these symptoms and the things that go on, it's pretty tough to find out exactly what's going on. And for me, someone who's never really experienced anything like this, it's really hard to gauge where you're at, too."
Neither Steckel nor Hedman was suspended or fined by the NHL for the hits, which angered Crosby. The only on-ice penalty was issued to Hedman for boarding.
Steckel maintains his hit was an accident, that he did not see Crosby until he hit him. Both Crosby and Brisson said the NHL should toughen its penalty against blindside hits to the head to include sanctions for accidental hits.
The comments reignited the debate on head shots and concussions in the NHL. A further controversy arose last week in the wake of a Globe and Mail story that Crosby was angry enough to have considered not attending the all-star game even if he was healthy enough to play.
Crosby spoke to Brendan Shanahan, the NHL's vice-president of hockey and business development, several times over the last week about his potential participation in the all-star game. He said Shanahan never asked him to attend the game even if he was unable to play.
"No," Crosby said. "He was pretty clear in just making sure that my health was first and foremost. That was great to hear."
Penguins general manager Ray Shero said it was the team's decision to let Crosby stay away from the NHL's all-star weekend.
Normally, Crosby would spend part of the all-star weekend making public appearances for his sponsors. However, Brisson said no appearances were scheduled for the weekend and the sponsors all support the decision to stay home and rest.
"The sponsors understand there is always the risk when you have an athlete," Brisson said. "Sometimes you have a photo shoot or a TV shoot and you can't because the player is hurt.
"Most of the sponsors are there [at the all-star game]but they all wished him well. The sponsors totally get it."
Crosby said he will not play again until he is fully healthy, no matter how frustrated he feels.
"It's not going to do me any good to come back too early and be feeling like I do now," he said. "People say mild concussion, but I don't know if there really is such a thing. It's a serious thing. Obviously, it's frustrating."