Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, best known for his agitating talk and bravado, is a sharp guy. His columns on SI's MMQB site are engaging.
Sherman's latest column on player safety and concussions is stark, honest and presents the other side of the issue, that players know the risks and the NFL is just getting in the way by trying to force many safety rules.
Sherman starts the column by saying that he suffered a concussion in his first start, could barely see afterward and played two quarters "half blind," but got an interception later and stayed in the starting lineup.
Not telling anyone he had a concussion and playing through it paid off. It's hard to tell Sherman, now one of the game's top cornerback, that he did the wrong thing.
"And the next time I get hit in the head and I can’t see straight, if I can, I’ll get back up and pretend like nothing happened," Sherman wrote. "Maybe I’ll even get another pick in the process."
That's part of what makes the issue complicated. The NFL deserves blame for misleading players on the long-term effects of concussions for many years. That probably won't happen anymore. But what's left is players with the most information possible, but they still understand the consequences of being honest if they are hurt.
All NFL players know of a story of a player getting hurt and never getting his job back. Alex Smith suffered a concussion for the 49ers last season, and Colin Kaepernick started for him the next game at quarterback. Smith never started another game for the 49ers. That's just one easy example. Fair or unfair, that's reality.
Sherman isn't speaking for every player, but it's naive to think that others haven't done or wouldn't do exactly what he did and be quiet about having a concussion, knowing that the next chance might never come.
"Sometimes I can tell when a guy is concussed during a game—he can’t remember things or he keeps asking the same questions over and over—but I’m not going to take his health into my hands and tell anybody, because playing with injuries is a risk that guys are willing to take," Sherman wrote.
Sherman likens playing football to eating unhealthy food even though there could be repercussions in 30 years. We still do it. Football players still play despite the health risks, just like boxers and NASCAR drivers know the risks of their sports and choose to participate, as he points out.
Sherman writes that he thinks the public stance the NFL has taken on player safety, and the number of rules against hitting defenseless receivers, actually makes football more dangerous.
"It’s not hurting anybody but the players by making the game more dangerous. Defensive players are used to playing fast, but now they’re being forced to play with indecision, and indecision gets you hurt in this game," he wrote.
Sherman makes points that are hard to argue against. And certainly many other players feel that way. Is it the NFL's job to protect these players from themselves? Or is Sherman right, that once players understand the risk it's then up to them if they want to play?
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