Seahawks Insider

Morning links: Views on head trauma vary

Post by Todd Dybas / The News Tribune on Oct. 26, 2013 at 8:00 am with 33 Comments »
October 26, 2013 1:15 am

Good morning.

As you’ve likely seen in the two prior posts, I wrote about how Larry Fitzgerald handled those two crackback blocks against the Seahawks last Thursday.

You can read my story on all that here.

You can also read my discussion with former Seahawk  Dave Wyman about the topic here.

In this post, I wanted to add some more of the conversations I had with guys for the story, plus a long explanation from Pete Carroll about how he thinks the view of head trauma in the league has evolved over the last 15-20 years.

We’ll start with the players. Most notable to me among the comments were a couple thoughts from center Max Unger, one of the smartest and most well-informed guys on the team.

“I don’t want to play this game too long,” Unger said. “Get a higher percentage of some form of concussion-related brain damage.

“It’s definitely scary, I try not to watch any of the stuff about it.”

That perspective out of an NFL lockerroom for a Pro Bowl player I thought was telling. In addition, it’s a similar take to Richard Sherman saying players know the risk and subsequently accept them, but just phrased differently.

Here’s some more thoughts from Carroll, Unger, Doug Baldwin and Kam Chancellor:

Max Unger
Have you had a concussion? It seems a lot of the impact at the line of scrimmage is overlooked in this discussion) “I had one concussion in college. We’re more of the repeated hits. We don’t get the big collisions. It’s still there. It’s still something that we think about. I don’t want to play this game too long. Get a higher percentage of some form of concussion-related brain damage. It’s definitely scary, I try not to watch any of the stuff about it.”

Are you familiar with Mike Webster?) “I know who he is. That’s stuff that’s pretty scary. Those guys were a different type of football player. I know our training staff does their best to prevent you from getting to that situation. It’s pretty real.”

What’s the balance between between having your bell rung and staying on the field as a tough football player?) “It’s something that league and our trainers have educated us about quite a bit. We’re trying to get rid of that mentality, even though it is tough … play through everything mentality. You know when you have a concussion. It’s pretty obvious. It’s just kind of up to you. It always and forever will be on the player to determine how hard and how far he wants to push it.”

Kam Chancellor
Did you seen the fines for Brandon Meriweather and does that change how you approach big hits?) “I heard about it, I haven’t seen it. It doesn’t change my perspective at all. I’m not a guy that wants to go out there and hurt anybody. I’m a guy that just wants to dislodge the ball from you. I understand the rules. The main thing you have to focus on getting your head up out of the play and use that shoulder. You have to use that shoulder to the best of your ability.”

Do you worry about how the league is handling big hits or do you understand there is a concern about player safety?) “I understand they want to protect the players, but this game is hard, man. It’s a violent game. Guys play hard, a lot of the helmet-to-helmet hits aren’t intentional. It’s just bang-bang plays. I understand they want to protect everybody, but it’s just hard. Guys are going to keep getting fined and there’s nothing they can do about it for real.

Did you see Fitzgerald last week not blow up Thurmond and Sherman?) “If it was me, the way I play this game, I’m a physical guy. I’m going to try to lay you out. I’m not going to aim at your head, I’m going to hit you in the strike zone, but I am going to try and lay you out.

“I don’t know what was going through his head … I can’t think for nobody else, can’t really talk for anybody else. He could have not been going hard or he could have been looking out. I can’t really say anything about that play.”

Are you surprised to see that on an NFL field?) Yeah. It is surprising. Even if you’re cool with that guy, it is surprising. It’s still in the game, you’re adrenaline is pumping and you’re hyped up. I am kind of surprised about that.”

Doug Baldwin
Sherman wrote he thought the NFL was the problem) “The NFL is not worried about concussions.

The NFL is worried about their pocketbooks. They would not have made any changes if the previous players didn’t sue them. That’s my 100 percent belief.”

How much do you guys think about it and that balance between being safe and playing no matter what?) “We’re intelligent. We know when we can play and when we can’t. There’s sometimes when you get a little stinger and your realize give me a couple minutes.”

Do you look at what happened with Junior Seau as an indication of long-term accumulation and it’s effects?) “As long as football has been going on, there’s got to be more to it than just concussions.”

Carroll’s answer when asked how the view of head trauma has evolved in the league over the last 15-20 years)
“It has come a million miles. From the dark days when nobody would ever acknowledge it or talk about it, the players all would ignore it, the coaches would ignore it telling them to shake it off, and you’d see guys shaking their head like they’re literally trying to shake it off, which is the worst thing you could do you know.

“We didn’t have any idea of what it took to get back, we weren’t tuned into the symptoms that you could see. I’ve learned now that you could look at a guy three or four days after a legit concussion, and you can see it in his eyes that there is something that is not right in the way they respond. We’re just so much more aware of it, and I think it’s fantastic new understanding that we have, but we’re still growing with it and there is still the warrior mentality of the players that exists that I totally can relate to and understand why they think the way they think. Through proper education and awareness we’ve come a long, long ways. Hopefully the technology will continue to grow.

“The awareness of the players and the way they play is really changing, it’s really shifting. It’s clear our game is not the same as it was, and it’s still okay, it’s fine. We’re going in the right direction, we’re doing the right things, we’re making the right choices, the players are declaring in the flash of a moment on how to adjust so that they don’t take that shot. It still happens sometimes because you just can’t avoid some of them. I would think that we’re going in the direction that we’re really going to see a change in the numbers of injuries and the severity of them, for all of the reasons. I think the league has realized how much we have to step it up, and now it’s still our efforts to continue to teach.

“I sent some stuff into the league office this week to demonstrate to them where are guys are showing that they do understand better and they’re making those choices. In a poised moment a guy could knock a guy out. Let me just tell you this, I sent in two plays that Larry Fitzgerald had. Those are just two plays that I thought jumped off the film, and jumped off of the game film. I said something to Larry after the game about those two decisions that he made because I thought they were perfectly illustrating the new mentality and the right mentality. With an iconic guy like that I just thought it was really powerful. So I sent those plays to the league just to make that statement. Let’s teach and demonstrate the guys are turning the corner, and they do get it and they do understand. That message should go throughout the league, throughout college football, down to the young kids that are playing, where we can see the game can be played differently, and still really good with great results, and still a very aggressive tough game.

“I was really fired up about that illustration because it just jumped off the field, and I was amazed that it was so obvious. He’s such a great player, and a great competitor, and a tough dude would make those decisions so obviously and right in front of us. It’s still a big hit, but it could’ve been a colossal collision had he taken full advantage of the opportunity, and he didn’t. in an instant his poise, and jus his makeup and character demonstrated that he understands, and he did that. Richard Sherman still got hit pretty good. Walter Thurmond got hit, but that was even a not as severe hit. So that’s really cool stuff, and that’s where the league is going, and that’s what we all need to understand, and that will have ramification long after for what you’re talking about, about the head traumas and all of that. We can do it.

“There was a time when this first was shifting, and I was at the Jets years ago and we had a bye week and Bill Polian and Paul Tagliabue and some other guys had a session and they were talking about one of the coaches that we’re going to play against Chuck Cecil and his play. I got called into the office to talk about these violent hits that were happening and Chuck was a mean son of a gun, he was as tough as you get. There was a time where the coaches and the players couldn’t even fathom the thought that we were being restricted in the way we play because that was the only way we understood the game to play. We’ve evolved a million miles since then. I’m not sure what year that was, but it was that long ago that they were trying to start to figure this thing out, and how they can control it. It’s taken all of this time until now to really see the game shift.

“I don’t think it shifted until the last two or three years though. I think it’s the last two or three years that it’s really shifted and the awareness and guys understand. Guys like Kam Chancellor can be as physical and tough as anybody in football, and make the right decisions, and still hit guys. Make the plays that are necessary and keep the game safe. It’s a really exciting time. I would never think I’d be saying this from where I was because I was cheering for Chuck Cecil. I thought he was awesome, he was one of my favorite guys. I see the game different now.”

Links:

> The Everett Herald wrote about Russell Wilson taking risks as he escapes the pocket.

> ESPN’s Seahawks and Rams writers discuss Monday night’s game.

> ESPN also talks about Wilson and his relationship with Matt Holiday of the St. Louis Cardinals.

> Mynorthwest.com says the Seahawks’ depth at linebacker obvious.

> Seahawks.com says LB Bobby Wagner took another big step toward returning from a high ankle sprain.

> This isn’t Seahawks specific, but a fun discussion: Dez Bryant or Megatron? As Jason Puckett always says on KJR, you can only have one.

Leave a comment Comments → 33
  1. Dukeshire says:

    “… dislodge the ball from you.” Kam plays so violently. I love his game, and he’s becoming a better safety all the time.

  2. Ever think Fitz secretly wishes he was a Seahawk?

  3. Dukeshire says:

    Or on any competitive team…

  4. montanamike2 says:

    I don’t think it’s beyond the realm of possibilities he wants to come here, he is chummy with Sherman and Baldwin.

  5. montanamike2 says:

    Another dream i guess.

  6. He and Wilson seemed to have a good reporte during the Pro Bowl.

  7. hawkdawg says:

    He also pal-ed around a lot with Russell at the Pro Bowl…

  8. thursday says:

    I’d love to see Fitz on our team!

  9. They probably “pal-ed” around because good people attract to each other. I agree.

    I’d love Fitz too, but the guy makes about $15 million per season. I know he’s better than Rice, but he makes double what Rice makes and most people here hate Rice because of it. Everyone knows the Hawks spread the ball around so there’s no way Fitz would get the same number of targets in Seattle as he does in Arizona.

    At this point in time, I think players on most teams in the NFL wished they played for Seattle. Think about that. Isn’t that a cool thing to know?

  10. Carlsonkid says:

    They hung out in the Pro Bowl together last year ..

    Sidney Rice and a draft pick for Fitz ?! : )

  11. If Unger was smart, he’d finish out this big contract he’s getting paid and quit (like most players should).

    One thing about being young is that most are too stupid to realize that they will be 50-60 years old one day and their now strong body will eventually break down.

    For all people talked about Matt Birk being smart, that guy hung on way too long for the money. Sure, he was good/productive, but you can’t tell me that he’s not going to look back on his life when he’s 45 and older and say that the money was worth it. Heck, they even did a feature on him last year about how his body is broken down (and that’s when he was playing!).

    Sandy Koufax may not have played football but he retired when he was still the best pitcher in all of baseball. At his retirement announcement (I saw it although I wasn’t born yet) he talked about how having the use of his left arm later in life was more important than making more money pitching for the Dodgers. Most people simply don’t have the long-term intelligence that Koufax had (or Barry Sanders – although in his case he should have notified the team earlier than he did).

    Too many players spend like they are going to be making this type of money forever. They get caught up in too much crap. As a 40-year old, it’s easy for me to say this or that, but as a 20-year old, I’d have probably done that same stupid stuff too.

    It’s a shame that most 20 year olds don’t look at 40 and 60 year olds and respect their knowledge. Every single 20 year old today is going to look back on their life as a 40 year old and think how stupid they were 20 years ago (to a degree) and the same applies to 40 year olds today when they are 60. I know for a fact that I’m going to be smarter when I’m 60 than I am today and am not ashamed to be smart enough to at least listen to elders, to a degree. It’s too bad that players who are gods to others today don’t realize this. And when they do realize it – it’s usually too late (and then they are the old guy that the kids of tomorrow are too cool to listen to – then the cycle repeats itself).

    I bet not one blogger on here thinks they were smarter 10 years ago than they are today.

  12. GeorgiaHawk says:

    Bob Stelton and Dave Grosby at Mynorthwest.com clearly didn’t watch the last game if they think KJ Wright was a big part of the Defensive performance.
    It was one of the worst games he ever played. 8 passes targeted on him, 8 passes completed.
    He certainly is better then that of course but come on Bob and Dave you look foolish praising him for his performance last week.

  13. Rice and a draft pick for Fitz? Okay – who do you cut in the $7-8 million of savings that you’ll need to save since Fitz makes over double what Rice does? Do you want to turn it into something like Rice and a pick for Fitz and then have to cut someone like Mebane to make room for Fitz and his contract? Actually, by cutting Bane, you’d need to cut someone else, too. Then there’d be less to resign ET and Sherm.

  14. Thanks for that link, Georgia. I knew he said (even when he played for the Vikings) that he was going to lose a lot of weight when he retired to live a healthier lifestyle – but I think he did too much damage by playing as long as he did.

  15. GeorgiaHawk says:

    I think you’re right and perhaps that’s why Birk is serious about his health now.
    I think Hutch has lost some weight too but I don’t think it’s close to what Birk lost.

  16. Southendzone says:

    The quotes by Unger were really interesting. You rarely hear a player say things like “I don’t intend to play that long” or “It’s scary”.

  17. For the sake of Unger – I hope he backs up his words now with actions later. As a Seahawks fan, I want that guy as our center until he’s in his mid-30s. However, he never is going to see us fans at a family reunion, is never going to cuddle us fans in his arms as a parent (that’d be weird!), etc. I heard the same type of comments that Unger is giving now to what Birk said here in MN not too many years ago. Then another year became another year for Birk… You only have one life and money doesn’t buy happiness (although way too many seem to think it does until it’s too late to know otherwise). Lets see if Unger has the character/honesty to make sure he’ll be happy later in life. We’ll judge him based on his actions as a 30-32 and especially 35 year old, rather than his words now in his mid/late 20s when he’s still in his prime physical condition.

  18. montanamike2 says:

    BobbyK i know you’re totally right about Fitz and his salary, i was just having a wet dream. Rice does all right considering our personnel and the fact that this is a run first team.

  19. ChrisHolmes says:

    The whole concussion thing… is getting on my nerves.

    I love this game. I hate seeing the players hurting after their careers are over, but they chose this. Even before concussions became mainstream, there was already plenty of other bodily trauma going on post-career. Guys who can’t walk, guys who can’t move… It was already present and known.

    I have two thoughts to share.

    1) As much as I hate to say it, this is probably football in 20 years:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pn_EiAzW2uQ

    Don’t laugh that that video. I think it’s a very real probability… It won’t be the same game I grew up on. My grandkids… won’t know the difference I suppose. But still, depressing.

    2) One thing I keep thinking about is this: How is knowingly choosing to play football and different than knowingly choosing to work on a crab fishing boat, or knowingly choosing to join the Marines and get shot at, or knowingly choosing to work on the construction of a skyscraper? Or be a roofer, or logger, or any other dangerous job that has a high probability of affecting your short-term or long-term health?

    These guys are making this choice knowing they are jeopardizing their long-term health. Even BEFORE the concussion issue became mainstream, everyone who played knew they were risking their long-term health. They knew they were going to suffer joint pain, muscle damage, that some guys can’t even WALK.

    Football has always had this long-term danger to the body. It’s just that now the brain trauma is getting all the publicity – but the danger has always been there and been known. And guys CHOOSE to do it…

    So… I’m a bit tired and fatigued from all the concussion coverage. I mean, I get it – it’s a BIG deal. The game is probably going to change because of it. Great. I guess.

    In the meantime I’d like to enjoy what little of this incarnation of the NFL I have left before it goes away. I’m getting tired of Peter King and every other sportswriter in American deciding that they’re going to cover concussions 24/7 this year and basically, essentially ruin an otherwise amazing football season for the fans.

    You know what? We get it. Concussions are bad. Now shut the heck up about it.

    Final thought: I think the only way this whole concussion issue goes away is by removing the helmet from the game. You gotta take the game back to its leatherhead roots. Only when the hard weaponry of the helmet is no longer available to the players will they ultimately stop leading with it and stop causing concussions.

    Once you do that… I’m not sure what you have. Maybe you play football like they did during the leather helmet days, or maybe you play flag football. I’m not sure.

    But the only way to make the issue go away for good is to remove the helmets.

    Or just get over it and accept the dangers, just like crab fisherman, marines, astronauts, loggers, and everyone else who works a dangerous job. Just accept the consequences.

    Either way, this is the only post I’ll make about it. I’m so fatigued by the whole concussion story I can’t stand it anymore.

  20. jawpeace says:

    The NFL is improving in the head trauma area.

    Still I think the NFL needs to do these two things to help protect players from trying to play hurt and not let the team down.
    1. Expand the regular roster to 56 players and also increase the active players to 50.
    2. With this they need to up the salary cap for each team 5 million.

    My guess is they don’t want to increase the payroll as that means less money for owners and NFL.

  21. montanamike2 says:

    I was both a logger and a military serviceman, even a painter where i had to climb 40-50 foot ladders,(Big Sky was a nightmare). All my jobs were super dangerous, i joined the Army to get away from logging after witnessing several of my childhood friends get killed or dismember limbs.
    I’m still deciding if the Army was safer, i always lived paycheck to paycheck, i wish i was making millions playing a sport that i love.

  22. Hawkjitsu says:

    I was a snake eater (Special Forces for the uninformed) for 7 years. I can honestly tell you that I have had 3 DIAGNOSED concussions, and god knows how many more that went unnoticed. They make you fuzzy, dizzy, disoriented. I know when Sherm said “shake it off”, I doubt he was literally saying to do that. I do think he was saying that when it comes to keeping your job, or your life, you got to nut up and push through.

    Barring a SEVERE concussion, that fuzziness subsides. Keeping in mind that Sherman is running into people, and I was running from bullets and explosions, but all I’m saying is that if the fuzziness starts to subside, and you know that you’ll be good, I think that a grown man knows if he can handle it. Just like I knew I wasn’t signing up for the girl scouts, these guys know the risks. Now and in the future.

  23. GeorgiaHawk says:

    Good posts ChrisHolmes and montanamike.
    I agree. It is getting annoying having to read about this daily like it is something that was just discovered.

    These older players should be taken care of medically by the NFL however it’s sad when they start lawsuits over something they know damn well was a risk.

    I don’t know how they can prove it was playing in the NFL instead of College or even high school that caused the most head trauma to them.

    And then you have the players that abused their brains with HGH and other drugs throughout their career and well after it.

    Funny how you don’t hear players like Steve Largent and Jerry Rice complaining about it.

  24. GeorgiaHawk says:

    And good post Hawkjitsu.

  25. Southendzone says:

    “They knew they were going to suffer joint pain, muscle damage, that some guys can’t even WALK”

    This statement has very little to do with the concussion/CTE issue.

    This is less like crab fishing and more like smoking cigarettes. For years you have the owners actively denying the risk of these repeated hits to the head, just like cig manufacturers and their group of fake scientists and doctors. In both cases real science won out and those promoting fake science for their own economic benefit got the sh*t sued out of them.

    We just don’t know what the science will eventually discover. It’s not necessarily the kill-shots on blind side blocks that create problems, it might be cumulative effects of the center banging heads with the NT 50 times a game.

    We can’t expect the players to “accept the consequences”, when these consequences aren’t yet well understood and moreover have been deliberately disguised by the league.

    I understand the level of coverage, it’s the biggest issue in the game right now.

  26. ChrisHolmes says:

    “I don’t know how they can prove it was playing in the NFL instead of College or even high school that caused the most head trauma to them.”

    They can’t, and that’s why the NFL settled that lawsuit with the players for $700 million-plus.

  27. “And then you have the players that abused their brains with HGH and other drugs throughout their career and well after it.”

    Georgia, there is absolutely no significant evidence that HGH damages the brain. The link between football and brain damage is not yet definitively proven, but there’s a lot more evidence than with HGH. I wish you would stop with this. There are many confounding factors. That’s true. Much more research needs to be done, but it seems logical that football could cause brain damage. Pugilistic Encephalopathy or Dementia Pugilistica is a medically acknowledged condition. It seems logical that smashing your brain around in football would cause something similar. Doesn’t mean it’s an absolute yet though.

    “I think the only way this whole concussion issue goes away is by removing the helmet from the game. You gotta take the game back to its leatherhead roots. Only when the hard weaponry of the helmet is no longer available to the players will they ultimately stop leading with it and stop causing concussions.”

    ChrisHolmes, I didn’t agree with much of your comment, but I would agree with this. People instinctively protect their heads if they don’t have some massive helmet like they do in the NFL. I doubt most modern players would be okay with looking like the old Cardinals safety Larry Wilson. They need just enough to protect from skull fractures.

    Look, the league settled because the knew they were wrong and were able to avoid admitting any culpability and any definitive link between football and brain damage. The suit was filed because the league withheld information from the players, which they did. Their own internal study that suggested a higher prevalence of cognitive issues amongst former NFL players was leaked to a reporter. The NFL hid it. Feel free to google it. They have been pretending to be studying this issue since 1994. They placed a Rheumatologist at the head of this committee. A person who was a known concussion denier. They put out information to the players consistently that it was okay to go back into the same game with a concussion.

    The suit had nothing to do with players having full knowledge of the risks and choosing to play. The NFL did everything it could to hide and discourage any research that they didn’t like. And this is about more than NFL players. High School kids and younger don’t have the ability to choose for themselves if it’s okay to take the risks of playing padded football. This is what scares the NFL. If moms stop their kids from playing, the NFL at least takes a big hit and maybe implodes eventually.

    This is being studied more and more. Advancements in Medical Imaging technology will also advance this type of research in the future. You might as well get used to most big hits being taken out of the game. If that means you can’t enjoy the game then I suggest you find something else to occupy your time.

  28. GeorgiaHawk says:

    bbmate- I agree with Sherman on this that if Moms stop their kids from playing it will be the Moms that are in a higher income level.

    And that would just open more doors for kids that aren’t on a higher income levels.
    So the NFL could actually get better talent as a result of this instead of imploding like you suggest.

  29. GeorgiaHawk says:

    Nate- Sherman says-

    “People are always going to play football, and if higher income families choose to pull their kids out of the sport, it will only broaden the talent pool, giving underprivileged kids more opportunities to make college rosters. Most of the top guys in this league come from underprivileged situations anyway.”

  30. Georgia, I said take a big hit OR implode. I have no idea if it would implode or not. I think that a significant portion of the NFL talent pool comes from middle class families and above. A significant portion of the talent pool does come from the poorer segments of society, but I don’t believe that the talent lost if parents in middle class families and above stopped their kids from playing football would simply be replaced at the same level by players from lower socioeconomic strata.

    Big time college programs take the best players they can get regardless of socioeconomic status and grades. I mean grades once they have met the requirements to be eligible or for admission if it is a school Like Notre Dame or Stanford. I don’t see how taking higher income kids out of the talent pool improves it? It may not decimate it, but I certainly don’t think it improves it.

  31. Great discussion. I’m typing on my phone, so I won’t comment on the head trauma stuff, else I’ll be typing all day…

    On Fitzgerald, there is no way in hell AZ EVER allows him to go to an NFC West team; it will be a condition of any hypothetical trade that whoever they trade him to not re-trade him or else give up more picks.

    I used to dream about us getting Boldin when he was younger in some tricky three team trade, but it was impossible. Might as well wish Hutch hadn’t left.

    And AZ would never trade him to a Rival. Maybe they swap for Dwayne Bowe in KC..

  32. BUT, if a trade were possible, I bet anything Fitz would renegotiate his salary to go to a contender of his choice. How bout Harvin and Fat Carp for Fitz and Darren Colledge?! He’ll, I’d throw in a third rounder…

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