Had a chance to have a good conversation with former Seahawks, Broncos and Stanford Cardinal linebacker Dave Wyman, who does radio work for 710 ESPN and television work for Q13 Fox's Seahawks Saturday Night.
Wyman had a lot to say when we talked about head trauma in the NFL, how the league is handling it and his concern about how current reaction could influence future football participation. I'm going to throw a lot of stuff at you today about this, so read what you like. I think it's an important topic for multiple reasons. There will be a couple more posts today on this subject, including my full story for you non-paywall folks (you know who you are!) and some comments from other Seahawks players that didn't make it into the story.
Here's the conversation with Wyman:
"When you’re young, you’re invincible and you don’t think about those kind of things. I think when you get older, you don’t remember how you felt when you were younger. You still hadn’t made it yet. So, you have to make those sacrifices sometimes.
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"The whole concussion thing is so unexplored. It’s just so in the early stages. I think there’s a lot of overreaction both on how they’re measuring it and whether or not that’s what’s causing these problems in guys like (former Pittsburgh Steelers center and Pro Football Hall of Famer Mike) Webster or if it’s all these other factors. It’s just such a big subject. So unexplored, so vast and it’s hard to control all the variables.
"I think football is tough game to retire from. You get shut out. You feel shut out. You can’t ever do it again. There’s nothing that you’ll ever do in your life that will closely duplicate that.
"Here’s what my problem with it is: How inconsistently it is regulated. (Colts punter Pat McAfee) that was helmet-to-helmet. He nailed him. I don’t understand why one is and one isn’t. The other thing is I just don’t think those penalties solve the whole concussion problem. There’s just egregious and worse examples happening on the line of scrimmage then there is in that situation. Really, that’s two 200-pound guys colliding. At the line of scrimmage, there are 300-pound guys colliding and I think worse examples of concussions there.
"Just trying to police it out there in those obvious situations ... especially that receiver down the seam with the safety hitting him? Don’t throw the ball there. Quarterbacks used to not do that because that was called throwing a “hospital ball.” Or you’re hanging your receiver out there. You see the safety coming over and you know he’s going to hit the guy.
"To me, it’s silly the way they are regulating it.
"But, it certainly gives me some pause as to what is the future of the game and the big problem really is if people start to get scared away from it. Do they want to take that kind of risk? But, I think identifying what that risk is is important. Because Mike Webster, I played with a guy named Blair Bush who played almost the exact numbers of years (17 to Webster’s 17, actually) and the same position and as many games probably, wasn’t a Pro-Bowl type player, but was a center, and Blair is in his mid- to late-50s now. He’s been married for 25-30 years, is a successful business guy and just had him at a party a little while ago. Perfectly fine. So, how do you explain that?
"It’s definitely in a very shaky stage. It doesn’t surprise me right now. Football is in such a popular stage, it’s become a huge target. You look at all the money involved and all the focus, of course there’s got to be some downside, and that’s really what’s happening right now."
There seems to be a distinct mistrust of the league from the players when it comes to their intentions about player safety) "There’s some dishonesty there, ‘we care about player safety.’ It’s a business like another other business. There’s no business if you don’t have the money. Somebody who would say they don’t really care about player safety and it’s all a big fake, I would say, grow up. Of course it’s about money. Of course it’s about preserving their business and product, money is a lot about what the players do as well. That part of it is a little bit silly, too. Of course they’re protecting their asset like any company would do. They’ve got a big one right now.
"I do think it’s dishonest for (NFL commissioner Roger) Goodell to say it’s all in the name of player safety. I wish he would just be honest and say it’s all in the name of team revenue or NFL revenue. And not necessarily about the player safety thing."
It seems like both sides could says, ‘We understand this is how this works,’ the risks, and the millions of dollars involved and choose to do it, which appears what Sherman was trying to say?) "That’s exactly what Sherman was trying to say. I really applaud him for the way he was so sort of grown up and mature about it, because he understands anything in life that … the risk-reward model is there for a reason. If you want to do something that is very safe and doesn’t involve much risk or hard work, then it’s probably not going to pay very well. You can’t ever take away the risk and keep the reward. That’s where I think it’s silly with the NFL trying to take away all the hits, the big hits; that’s what people love. The reason why is because most people aren’t willing to do that, so, that’s what you want to watch. You want to watch other people do that. That part of that is very well. I think Richard fully understands. I know what the risk is, I am taking it, I’m getting well compensated for it and there’s nothing else I would do.
"I remember thinking about that in my second or third year. There were a couple older players saying, ‘You know, you’re going to be hurting later on.’ Sure enough, I think I’ve had 16 knee surgeries. You know, I’ve had five or six concussions, all kinds of other things. I don’t hurt any worse than my brother, who is around my age or other people. But, it bothered me for a long time. I thought about it … I say a long time, maybe two or three weeks I remember thinking about it, yeah, I’m probably hurting my body. Every time I hurt myself, I hurt my finger in college and they told me I’d never bend my finger again, at the time, it was kind of heart-breaking, but I don’t really care. There’s always a price to pay.
"The other thing I would say about football is it’s so under attack because of the popularity and all the focus. But, man, all the good things that come along with it. It’s how I met my wife, it’s why I’m here (in Seattle), it’s everything for me. It got me a scholarship to Stanford, a career, it’s made me lots of money and great opportunities. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. There’s just so much focus on the negative side of it right now, because of all this."