You have to be tough to play in the NFL, and few were tougher than Warren Sapp. He’s one of the best defensive tackles of the past generation, and rightfully in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
So it was a bit of a jolt to hear Sapp talk about what he believes the game has done to him. That he can’t remember certain things now, even though he said he always had a great memory. He relies on reminders on his phone to keep from forgetting daily events. He said “it’s from the banging we did as football players.” Sapp said he’ll try to blame lack of sleep or something he drank on his forgetfulness, hoping to avoid a more serious answer.
“You try to find a reason that it’s not that, ‘It’s my brain,’” Sapp said in an interview with The Players’ Tribune. “That I’m not deteriorating right before my own eyes.”
In the interview Sapp said he’ll donate his brain to the Concussion Legacy Foundation for research.
— The Players' Tribune (@PlayersTribune) June 20, 2017
There are still significant questions about what exactly is the connection between chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), concussions and football. The studies are still in the very early stages and as Yahoo’s Eric Adelson recently wrote about, one issue in the medical community are presumptions about CTE and the fear involved. The more work that’s done on brains of former football players like Sapp, and non-football players too, the closer we’ll get to answers.
Sapp has made up his mind. He said he was inspired to donate his brain after an email from former NFL running back Fred Willis that included quotes from NFL owners.
“Down the line you could see them, ‘There’s no correlation between football, CTE, suicides,’ and all of this foolish stuff,” Sapp said in The Players’ Tribune interview. “I mean, where are you getting this information from? And then spewing it out as if it’s fact.”
Sapp’s message was that the game needed to change. He recognized it was a “macho league,” and unlike many fans, he likes the changes to help player safety. He talked about the pointlessness of old, long training camps, with brutal drills like the Oklahoma drill in which players relentlessly hit each other.
Sapp even said he is in favor of eliminating tackle football for kids, until they reach high school. That’s surprising coming from one of the game’s greats, who made his living down in the trenches.
“The game is getting better,” Sapp said. “Let’s just make it all the way better for everybody involved, especially the youth.”
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