RENTON If every NFL player and team thought like K.J. Wright, the league would be a better place.
Then again, it’s because Wright thinks the way he does that he can still, after seven NFL seasons, think as clearly and with as much refreshing common sense as he did on Thursday.
“I’m 100 percent. I’m good. It takes a while to come back from a concussion, and I’m good,” the Seahawks’ outside linebacker said before his second day of practice since he sat out last weekend’s season-altering loss to the Rams.
“The NFL needs to make it mandatory to where you miss one game when you have a concussion. Because you are just not right.”
To heck with the “concussion protocol,” the league’s five-stage process that concussed players must pass per stage by the approval of doctors before they can return to the field. Forget the macho, “warrior mentality” for which NFL players are (in)famous, dating to the unenlightened days, really into the 2000s, of a guy “getting his bell rung” then taking a few whiffs of a smelling salts and returning to play.
Sure, it tore Wright up to miss what essentially was Seattle’s NFC West championship game--and especially to watch last Sunday as his defense get ransacked for 244 yards rushing and 40 of Los Angeles’ 42 points without him, and with Pro Bowl middle linebacker Bobby Wagner severely limited by a bad hamstring. It angered and disappointed Wright that he ended his streak of 61 consecutive starts in the regular season dating to a broken foot in early December of 2013, and that while he watched on the sideline in a team coat the Seahawks’ chances for a sixth consecutive postseason appearance mostly disappeared.
“I was like on a four-year streak, man,” he said of ending the second-longest run of consecutive games played among NFL linebackers.
“But I wasn’t going to mess around with that.”
See, at age 28 with a wife and an 18-month-old son, Wright will return this Sunday at Dallas playing for far more than winning a game.
“I don’t care what anybody says about they feel fine. I think they should miss one game if they have a concussion--because it’s a brain,” Wright said. “It’s your brain. And you only get one.
“What do you think about that?” he asked his questioners.
“I think you are a wise man,” I told him.
Wright has had one other concussion in his NFL career, during a game on Nov. 4, 2012, against Minnesota. Like he did two games ago at Jacksonville, he left that Vikings game five years ago immediately and did not return until two games later.
“I mean, you are just dizzy, doing certain things make you dizzy. The lights hurt your eyes,” Wright said.
“Think about it: if the light hurts your eyes, why are you playing a football game?”
Why can’t the entire league think this way?
“You’ve got a concussion for a reason: it’s a brain. So why would you go put your brain right back into the same thing? It just makes no sense to me,” Wright said. “So I think you should sit out a game.”
I asked him if the 23-year-old Wright, just out of college on his first NFL contract trying to get a rich, second one, think like he does now?
“Ooooooohhh!” Wright said, liking the question. “Nope. Not at all.
“As you get older you start having a new perspective on life. You starting having a wife, kids. You realize that at the end of the day it’s still just a game--it’s a really important game--but it’s just a game.
“So the older you get, the wiser you should get. ... The 23-year-old K.J.? I would have probably tried to play through it. Which is not smart.
“It’s kind of dumb.”
Wright got his concussion Dec. 10 in the third quarter of the loss at Jacksonville. He met Jaguars’ fullback Tommy Bohanan head to head on an off-tackle running play.
Did Wright think it was a clean play by the fullback?
“The only person who said it wasn’t was my mom,” Wright said.
“I said, ‘What are you talking about? It was fine.’ I’ve got to do better about squaring up. One of my old coaches said, ‘Yeah, you’ve got to square up on that fullback. You can’t put your head in that position.’
“So it was all my fault. He’s a fullback. That’s what he’s supposed to do.”
It strikes as more than a coincidence that such clear thinking comes from the mind of an NFL veteran espousing mandatory time off for head injuries.
That should be a siren call for the rest of this macho league.