Many players, no matter the physical strife they've endured since retiring from the NFL, say they would do it all over again.
That sentiment is not unanimous, however.
Lem Barney had one of the greatest careers in NFL history. He had 56 interception as a Lions cornerback. He won defensive rookie of the year in 1967, and played in seven Pro Bowls. He was the fifth cornerback to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
And he says if given the choice to do it all over again, he'd play tennis or golf instead.
"I think it was worth it, but would I do it again? Never," Barney told Yahoo Sports Radio's Travis Rodgers. "If I could come back in another life, which I wouldn't know anything about, but if I do come back in another life, I would not want to play football. It would either be golf, tennis, I would even try hockey before I would try football again. It's a very dangerous sport."
Barney said he feels pretty good these days, but still feels the effects of 21 years playing football, from middle school to an 11-year NFL career. He said he works out every day, and keeps mentally active by reading, studying and playing games to keep his mind strong. The game has affected many former players like Tony Dorsett, one of the latest NFL greats to show signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a condition in the brain that might be caused by repeated hits to the head.
"I'm trying to stay involved actively, mentally, spiritually, physically, psychologically as well as emotionally," Barney told Yahoo Sports Radio. "I'm doing pretty good, but again, there's pains I have from the suffering of playing 21 years of football."
Barney said his grandson, Lem IV, wants to play football at Jackson State. Barney played at Jackson State and so did his son. Lem Barney would rather see his grandson do something else.
"I've been trying to sway him toward golf or tennis," Barney said on Yahoo Sports Radio. "'No granddad, quick feet like yours.' I say, 'No, I want you to have a quick mind and to get into something else.' But I can't take him away from it, if he wants to do it I can only try to support him with ways and manners of ways of playing the game."
Barney has spoken out against football many times before and warned of the effects the hits have on players. He said he understands that no matter the safety measures taken, the risk will never go away.
"You can't take the hits out of the game unless you dissolve the game altogether, because it's a game of hitting," Barney said.
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