COSTA MESA, Calif. -- Los Angeles Chargers defensive tackle Brandon Mebane returned to practice Wednesday after taking a two-week absence to be with his infant daughter, who was born with a heart condition.
Mebane, his wife Amena and their two children Mahailey and Makai have been in Omaha, Nebraska, receiving medical assistance after the birth of the couple's third child, a girl.
Makenna was born on Nov. 12 with trisomy 13 (T-13). Because of her defective heart condition, his daughter does not have a heart valve and will require surgery in the future.
"It's been a long and hard, pretty tough year for me," Mebane said. "But I've been praying way more, keeping my faith and my older two kids.
"Things been getting better, but it's definitely a difference. Saturday night, my wife and I were driving back from the hospital and we got stuck in the snow. ... It's something that made me more aware of talking to God more."
Mebane, 33, is in his third season with the Chargers. A defensive co-captain, Mebane has 32 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble in 10 games played.
"He's back in practice and doing good," Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn said about Mebane. "He's back with the team, and it's good to see Brandon.
"He's one of our leaders. He's a captain for a reason. On our team, these guys voted him that, and they've missed him. His leadership on the field is important, not just his ability. He's a good man."
Mebane's wife and daughter remain at Children's Hospital of Omaha, where Makenna is receiving treatment in a neonatal intensive care unit.
Mebane said his daughter will not be able to come back to Southern California for some time. Mebane said his wife and children have been in Omaha for months, and he has been flying there on Sundays after game days and returning home on Tuesday to practice.
Although it's been a trying time for the family, Mebane said his faith has helped him get through the ordeal, and he wants to bring more awareness to rare heart conditions like what his daughter is dealing with.
"I've just been playing this year in dedication for my daughter, my son and my other daughter and my wife," Mebane said. "It gives me something to push and fight for because at some point. ... You play a game for money, everybody likes the money, but the money doesn't really motivate you like that."