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Harry Carson

Harry Carson is a Hall of Fame linebacker who played for the New York Giants from 1976-1988. Here, he discusses why he regrets ever having played football. This is the edited transcript of an interview conducted with FRONTLINE’s Michael Kirk on Sept. 4, 2013.

Harry Carson is a Hall of Fame linebacker who played for the New York Giants from 1976-1988. Here, he discusses why he regrets ever having played football. This is the edited transcript of an interview conducted with FRONTLINE’s Michael Kirk on Sept. 4, 2013.

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    The Players Vs. The NFL

    Talk to me a little bit about the players that signed up for the lawsuit. Who were they? What was happening to them? What were they looking for?

    The players who signed up for the lawsuit, I think in a way they were looking to protect themselves. Some of them probably have not had symptoms, but because of the issue of concussions and those other ailments that sort of come along with concussions -- dementia, Alzheimer's and Lou Gehrig's disease -- I think some of those guys were trying to protect themselves. Now, there are other players who are really in the beginning stages of feeling that there is a problem going on with them. And some of those players I've spoken to directly and I encouraged them to sign up and be a part of the concussion lawsuit because if I called names, you would know these names immediately and you would know that their exit from the league was attributed to concussions.

    ... Some of these guys are deathly afraid of speaking in public, speaking with groups, for fear of losing their train of thought, not being able to focus, dealing with depression, dealing with anger issues, just being a little bit more forgetful. And they're in their 40s and 50s now, so many of these guys are dealing with the beginning stages of perhaps having to tap into whatever funding the NFL has provided.

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    The Players Vs. The NFL

    How did they feel about the NFL? Did they feel they had been done right by, or were they angry about the NFL? I'm trying to get a sense.

    I think typically, most players feel like they've been shafted by the NFL in some way because if you look at many of the players when they're dealing with their injuries, many of them have had to go to California to get some kind of settlement to deal with the injuries that they’ve sustained. They've not been able to get any kind of relief in their state, whether it's New Jersey or New York. And so, they feel frustrated and they feel like -- I don't want to say necessarily that the NFL turned its back on them, but I think they feel that the NFL could be doing a much better job of helping them with some of the problems that they're dealing with.

    That was the reason why, when I was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, I used the first part of my speech to basically put the league and also the Players Association -- just put it out there and put it on the carpet, because whatever the players were saying, they were being ignored. Someone had to say it, so I took it upon myself to say what needed to be said for the rank-and-file players out there who needed help.

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    What did you say?

    I told the audience at the Hall of Fame and the world that if the players who have built the NFL into what it is now, if the league and the Players Association called them the best of the NFL, that the league had to do a much better job of taking care of its own. And I think many players applauded me for doing that, because I could have just gotten up and said, "You know, it's great to be a Hall of Famer, blah, blah, blah." But I wasn't happy about being a Hall of Famer knowing that so many of my brethren were struggling. They were suffering. Especially many of the older guys, they were dying, and they were dying without any kind of dignity, without any kind of respect.

    It was eating at me because, you know, you look at Mike Webster. Prime example. The league and the Players Association sided against him in regards to benefits, and it wasn't right. I think that whenever you have a body like the NFL Players Association siding with the league, and the Players Association is supposed to be representing the player and they're going against one of their own constituents, there's something wrong with that picture. ...

    So in regards to the league, there have been a lot of issues out there that they have tried to handle. I call them dark clouds, because when you talk about the league, image is everything, and when they have a dark cloud hanging over the shield, they're going to do everything that they can do to make that dark cloud go away. So whether it was the issue of players' benefits, 2007 and later, or pensions or a concussion settlement, they have to make these dark clouds go away, because it's imperative that the league's image remain pristine.

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    The Players Vs. The NFL

    One of the things that a lot of people said the players had when they went into the negotiation with the NFL around the lawsuit was they had the potential gun that said, "You guys might have to testify in open court about what you knew and when you knew it about the concussion crisis going all the way back to '94." How strongly did players feel that they wanted to know what the league knew and when it knew it?

    I don't know if many players felt that strongly about dragging the league out on the carpet. I think that they wanted to be a part of the lawsuit to make people notice that there's an issue here that really needs to be addressed. I think everyone felt that there was going to be some type of settlement and it would probably not go to trial. But it would be some kind of settlement. ...

    My issue has always been not necessarily with the league, but just in telling my truth, and that is, I played football, and I sustained a number of concussions when I played, and I gave out a lot of concussions. And I knew that if I was diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome, and I knew something was going on, if I was diagnosed with that, there were probably a lot of other players diagnosed with the same thing.

    And so for me, it's more imperative for me to get the message out there to players that they're not going crazy, that they're dealing with something that could be manageable. And it's a result of having played the game. Now, when you sustain the concussion, was it when you played in the NFL? Was it when you played in college? Was it when you played in high school? Was it when you played Pop Warner football? At some point, on all of those levels, you've been concussed at one time or another. And so what brings on the post concussion syndrome? Is it hits that you took when you were a little kid, or hits that you took when you were in high school, or college or in the NFL?

    And quite frankly I can't judge when I sustained the damage, but I knew that there was some damage that's there that I don't necessarily have to wait until I pass away and donate my brains to some scientific organization. I know what the deal is with me.

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    CTE: Discovery of a New Disease

    When you hear about Bennet Omalu and Ann McKee and others who found CTE [chronic traumatic encephalopathy], when you first heard about CTE and the discovery of that stuff, what did you think, Harry?

    Didn't surprise me. When I first found out about it, it just validated what I think I've always known; that if you played the game and if you've hit people and you've gotten hit, you've sustained some kind of damage that you're going to take with you for the rest of your life. So when there was a name associated with the conditions of those players who committed suicide, I was not surprised. ...

    1990 when I was diagnosed, I could have told you then that there would come a time where players would commit suicide, and they committed suicide. And while I've always been saddened with players when they've committed suicide, I know what these guys have gone through, because I went through the same thing. But when I was a player -- I was an active player, and I felt suicidal. It wasn't until life after the game -- I was an active player. I was an active player dealing with depression, so I've learned how to manage my own life in such a way that when I have good days, I know they're good days, and then there are some days when they're not-so-good days that I know how to manage my way through those days and those low periods.

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    You feel like the league should have told you back in '90, '93, '94, in the post-playing days, "Harry, we're really worried about what's been happening with players, and we think you should seek some help," or, "We have some help for you," or any of those things, rather than doing what they did, which was to say: "No, return to play; he's good. Concussions are not a big problem"?

    You know, to be honest with you, I don't know what the league knew, and I don't know when they knew it, because I didn't have those discussions with the league. I got my own diagnosis because I knew something was going on, but I couldn't really put my finger on exactly what it was. As players, you're trained to think about the physical aspects of your body -- your knee, your back, your ankles, whatever. You know about that. You also know about your mental well-being sometimes. But from a neurological standpoint, players aren't trained to understand exactly what's going on with them.

    When I would stand up before hordes of media cameras here in the New York area, and I couldn't find the words to convey the points that I wanted to make, I knew something was wrong, because I knew I went to college; I was an educated man. I'd been a captain for 10 years, and to not be able to find the words to convey the points that I wanted to make, I knew there was something going on. ...

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    You've been accused of being a complainer, an agitator, a troublemaker, arguing for something that's unpopular with a lot of the fans and a lot of people at the league and other places. What do you say to them when they say: "Harry, don't rock the boat. It was very good to you, and it's very good to a lot of other guys. A lot of people make a lot of money they wouldn't make otherwise"? Why do you make so much trouble about this?

    The reason why I talk about it is because nobody told me. I had great mentors when I started playing football on the high school level. I had great coaches, great mentors on the college level. When I went to the Giants, I had really good mentors. Rosey Brown, Hall of Fame player, he was a mentor to me. Rosey Brown never said anything to me about possibly hurting your brain and it could probably be something that you'd have to deal with for the rest of your life. Nobody told me this stuff. But I feel like it's important for me to tell people, especially parents of kids who are playing, that if you allow your child to play, you have to assume a risk, a neurological risk, because everybody knows that you can hurt your knee; you can hurt your back; you can sever your spinal cord. People know that.

    But what happens if you hurt your brain? And people, parents, don't know. They don't know this information. And so for me, I feel it's imperative to get the message out there. I don't bang the drum and beat people over their head and stand on a soapbox and say, "Don't play football." I'm just one of these people that if you ask me, I'm going to tell you what my truth is, and my truth is what I know. ...

    And unfortunately, I've been around many of the older players who are dealing with dementia, who are dealing with Alzheimer's, who are dealing with Lou Gehrig's disease. Once you're out of the league, you don't have a voice. Nobody cares about you, except your family.

    To be honest with you, nobody gives a shit about you. They want you to go away and just be quiet. And for me, I have to speak up for all of those people who really don't have a voice. They don't have a voice. Or, if they've got a voice, nobody wants to hear what they have to say. ...

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    The Future of Football

    When the settlement happened last week, what did you think when you heard the terms and saw what had happened and that the players and the league had agreed? ...

    ... When I saw that it was -- the dollar amount was for 20 years, I thought to myself, for 20 years? What's going to go where? And I just thought to myself, the NFL has alleviated themselves of a problem for the next 20 years. So there's probably two decades or two eras of players who will not have anything. They won't be able to talk about head trauma, the concussions that they've sustained. There are two generations of players who will have to just shut the fuck up now and just go on about their business. And the NFL is going to continue to grow and prosper and run commercials to show parents how safe the game is and the technology that's going into the game and the research that's being done. They're going to be showing all of that. I mean, they show it now.

    So perhaps they're looking to win back parents who might be concerned about their kids playing football. The reality is, while there is a settlement, the issue's not going to go away. ...

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    The Future of Football
    "The NFL has given everybody 765 million reasons why you don't want to play football"

    ... So when a parent who watches this television program or picks up the newspaper and reads about the settlement, what do they take away from that? What does that settlement tell the average parent or the kid who's thinking about playing Pop Warner or a high school athlete, or what does a high school coach think of that settlement?

    Well, I think anyone who watches and they use common sense, they'll know that, again, from a physical-risk standpoint, you know what you are doing when you sign up, when you sign your kid up, that he could hurt his knee, OK? But what you should know now is when you sign that consent form, your child could develop a brain injury as a result of playing football when he's concussed. He doesn't have to be knocked out. He could see stars; that's a concussion. You get hit, you get knocked down, everything fades to black; that's a concussion. You can have many little micro concussions if you're an offensive or a defensive lineman or a linebacker taking part on contact on almost every play. So you have those mini-concussions that players sustain.

    And that's on every level of football. It's not just on the pro level; it's on every level of football. ...

    And so I think everyone now has a better sense of what damage you can get from playing football. And I think the NFL has given everybody 765 million reasons why you don't want to play football. ...

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    Would You Let Your Kids Play Football?
    Why he does not want his grandchildren to play football

    You have grandchildren?

    I've got a grandson --

    Do they play football?


    How come?

    I love my kids. My children, you know, my heart. But my children are grown up now. I have two grandchildren, one 7, and by the time this airs, he'll be about 4. But they are the light of my life, and I just love them to death, and I cannot in good conscience allow my grandson to play knowing what I know. Now, his father might want him to play because his father doesn't know. But knowing what I know, I don't want him to play. He's got golf clubs; I take him swimming; we do all kinds of stuff. But I don't want him to play football, because I think this young, smart black kid, I want him to be intelligent; I want him to be brilliant; I want him to be able to use his brain and not his brawn. And I want him to be the best that he can be. ...

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    Life After Football

    Do you think you have it, CTE?

    I would bet you probably $5 that I probably have it. When I look at myself and I feel what I go through on a daily basis, I can't help but think that I've got it. And to be more specific with you, I think that when I have headaches, it starts right here in my front temporal left lobe. So I know there's something going on there. ...




    Blurred vision occasionally, processing information. A little forgetful sometimes, but I remember everything that I feel I need to remember.

    You know, the brain controls everything, and for me, there are times when I feel I should be emotional about certain things, when someone passes away, when they die. There are times when I don't feel anything -- I feel bad that someone has died, but I just don't feel what I think I should feel when someone passes away. And when I feel that lack of emotion sometimes, I think there's something wrong here that I don't grieve the way that most people would grieve.

  12. Ψ ShareWhy he wouldn't play football if he had to do it again

    When you first played football, did you love it? Did you love the hitting and the crunching? You must have been a big kid, huh?

    When I first started playing football, I didn't love it, but I wanted to do it because many of my friends were doing it. So I wanted to belong. I loved the uniform; I loved putting on the helmet; I loved being referred to as a football player -- you know, going to a pep rally on Friday afternoons and wearing jerseys and all of this stuff, playing games. I thought it was cool to put eye black under your eyes, like I'd see on television, to wear all the pads that I wore, to wear the uniform. And then I went off to college, and to hear the band in the stands and to see all of my classmates enjoying watching the game, that was a turn-on.

    And then I got to play in the NFL. And when you're in the NFL, to be paid to do something that you enjoy doing, you know, it really is a blast. But I don't think on any level I really loved the game. I enjoyed playing the game, but I loved the guys who I played with, and I loved being on the field with them. Whether it was on the practice field or whether it was on the playing field, I loved being with them. I loved leading them. I was their captain, and they needed someone to follow, and they followed me. That is what I loved.

    When I went to the Hall of Fame and when I was inducted, I remember sitting in the luncheon at the Hall of Fame where all of these Hall of Famers were there and just sitting in there, and you see all of these guys who you idolized as a player. And I remember Deacon Jones getting up and speaking in the luncheon, and he said: "I loved playing the game. I wouldn't change a thing. I loved playing the game, and I'd do it all over again." And I caught myself saying the same thing. "I loved playing the game, and I'd do it all over again." And then I thought to myself, you stupid ass, no, you wouldn't.

    Having gone through the whole concussion issue -- and this is really before it became a hot-button topic -- and just being in the room with all those guys and seeing many of these guys who are dealing with health issues and some of them dealing with dementia, and I thought to myself, you've got to be crazy. You'd have to be crazy to say I'd do it all over again, especially me knowing what I know now. There was absolutely no way, no way in hell that I would do it all over again. I wouldn't do it all over again. ...

    But no, I didn't love the game. I enjoyed playing the game, but I never wanted to hurt anybody. I was not the typical football player who wanted to go out there and knock the snot out of somebody; that wasn't me. I went out and I played a controlled game. I didn't try to hurt anyone; I didn't try to obliterate anyone. I tried to keep order on the field. I tried to be the best captain I could be on leading my guys on playing the game.

    That's the reason why I'm more in this role of advocate, you know? There are guys who look at me, and they say, "Harry, you're going to be my captain for life." And that's the reason why I named my book Captain for Life, because I was their advocate when we played together. I advocated for them with the coaches and with the organization and with the whole issue of NFL benefits. I advocated on their behalf because they didn't have a voice. And with the whole concussion issue, I'm advocating on their behalf because they don't have a voice. Now they have a voice with 4,000, 4,500 players uniting and being a part of a lawsuit against the NFL. They had a voice, and so they didn't necessarily need my voice, but they had a voice.

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    Now they don't have a voice. Now something's been signed, settled, problem over.

    Well, they may not have a voice, but I still have a voice. And again, my issue is not with the NFL. My issue is people should understand what they're signing their kids up for when you play football. It's not about improving the helmet; it's not about making the equipment more technologically advanced. It is pure physics that when you stop after running full speed and you stop very quickly, and the brain is like the yolk of an egg, and when you stop, that brain and that yolk is going to continue, and it's going to hit up against the inside of the skull.

    Now, the inside of your skull has little bony areas of the skull, and when your brain hits up against the inside of the skull, there might be some tearing. How does that tearing of the brain affect you long term? What is it going to affect? Is it going to affect your memory? Is it going to affect your speech? Is it going to affect your sight? Is it going to affect your -- you really don't know.

    So when guys start having these neurological issues, who's going to care for them? ...

    When you look at many of these players, when you look at Mike Webster and what he went through off the field, when you look at players like Corwin Brown -- and I hope you look up Corwin Brown. He played here in New York for the Jets, and he was a smart kid, defensive back. He became a coach, went to the University of Virginia and coached with Al Groh. Then he left the University of Virginia, went to Notre Dame, and he became defensive coordinator at Notre Dame. So when [Coach] Charlie Weis got fired, he got fired.

    Couple of years ago, Corwin Brown, living in Indiana, held his family hostage in the house, and then he shot himself. His wife pleaded with the police not to shoot him, but he shot himself. And the reason why is because the family knew that Corwin was having some neurological problems. He was arrested. I think he has been sentenced to parole of like four or five years or whatever. But you look at Corwin Brown. The reason why he did what he did is because he had neurological issues that he didn't understand.

    Now, there is another young man who is more recently in the news, Titus Young. To be arrested, what, three or four times in a week, there's something going on there. And I think that's what the NFL needs to do. Don't turn your back on players like that, but embrace players. Have people in place to deal with those issues, because if you're talking about players who have played the game and you're talking about neurological issues, oftentimes they don't know. They don't understand what's going on with them. But I knew exactly what was going on with Mike Webster. I knew exactly what was going on with Corwin Brown. I know exactly what's going on with Titus Young. You know, their families don't know, but I know what's going on with them.

    Having played the game, having been concussed, having been in a similar position of either feeling suicidal or feeling helpless --

  14. Ψ ShareOn feeling suicidal

    You've actually felt suicidal?

    Oh, yeah, because I was going to drive off the Tappan Zee Bridge back in like 1981.

    Tell me.

    I lived in Ossining, N.Y. We practiced at Giants Stadium, so every day, I had to go from Ossining to Giants Stadium. There were times when I would feel so down and not really know why. I was depressed, but I didn't know why I was depressed. I was a pro football player, everything was fine, but I just slipped into this dark mood. So one day I just thought to myself, I was so depressed that I just thought about accelerating and driving through the guardrail and just going over. And I thought to myself, if anything happened to me, what would happen to my daughter? My daughter was my saving grace because I knew I had to raise her. You know, she had her mother, but I knew that I did not want to leave my daughter.

    ... I'd go through these periods where I could feel it coming on and then I'd be in this really dark place and I didn’t want to talk to anyone, I didn't want to deal with anyone. I didn't have a sense of humor. And being in a locker room and you're with guys who want to joke around, there were times when I'd be good to go and I'd want to joke around. But there were other time when I just did not want to be bothered.

    And one of my teammates, Gary Jeter, he said, "Harry, you know, you got the right initials, HC, because you're hot and cold." He said, "Sometimes, you're hot and everything's great and then there's sometimes when you are cold and you don’t want to deal with anyone."

    And it wasn't until years later that we talked about that whole period and he has a better understanding of what I was going through at that time. And quite frankly, I didn't even understand what I was going through. But, you know, I noticed that there were times when I would start to slip into this mood and then I'd stay in this mood for maybe a few hours or maybe a day, and then I'd come out of it and everything's fine.

    While I was in that mood, you know, I would probably go and eat something that would lift my spirits or I would get a book, or read a book, that would inspire me in some way. And I would read the Bible, I would read some kind of motivational book to help me when I was in those pits. And then I got to a point where I was able to control it and I recognized when it was coming on, and I knew that when it was coming on that I need to stay away from people and that it was only going to be temporary. I had to ride my way out of it. ...

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    Life After Football
    "I don't want any player to lose his dignity."

    I have a piece of tape -- I don't know how to use it in the film -- where you're talking about, it's after you've done the, and I probably won't because I don't know how to use it in the film, you've been at the Hall of Fame ... it's just a fragment. But you're doing an interview, and you lose it. You are really pissed. Do you remember this? And there's profanity; there's all kinds of things involved in this. And I think you're saying you're there to protect your brothers. Do you remember this moment?

    Yeah, I vaguely remember it. I don't talk about it a whole lot, but when I'm sort of forced to recall what some of the guys who I've played with have had to deal with, and especially many of the guys who are older who have already died, who they had to wait and wait and wait until the NFL did something to improve their lot in life, they didn't have certain benefits that should have been afforded to them, or accorded to them, I get emotional about that, because, again, I go back to [the fact that] there was nobody speaking up for them. So as a result, they suffered and they died, and they died without dignity. And the one thing that you don't want, that I never want to see a player do, and that is die without dignity.

    I remember when my father was dying, and I remember coming home from school. I was going for my junior year into my senior year, and I came home after finals, and then I spent a couple of weeks with him. But I could see the decline of my father. He went from standing upright to being bedridden, and then I had to give him a bath. I had to cut his hair; he would lose the ability to control his bowels. And I remember looking at him and how ashamed he was, how embarrassed he was. And I remember having to go back to summer school, and I cut his hair, and I put him in bed, and I left him in bed, and I was standing at the door, and I said, "Dad, I have to go." He said, "I know; I love you."

    A couple of days later, I got a phone call from my coach, who told me that my father passed away. All I can remember is my father is gone, but how he lost his dignity in the process of transitioning to the next life. And I don't want any player to lose his dignity, because football players are very proud individuals. You don't get especially to the NFL level without a certain amount of pride and just taking pride in the way that you play the game. You take pride in the way that you conduct yourself.

    For a football player to lose his dignity, it's shameful, and that's the reason why I get emotional about the issues of former players, players who have played the game, because they should never be placed in a position where they're going to lose their dignity. The most important thing that you can do for an individual like that is make sure that when he passes, he has not lost his dignity. ...

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    Junior Seau's Suicide

    Jesus, when you think about the list in this film, Webster, [Terry] Long, Andre Waters, Tom McHale, you go down the list of people, dignity and their death don't belong in the same sentence.

    Dave Duerson, yeah. You know, those guys -- obviously that could have been me. That could have been me, because I felt the way that they felt. You know, it's strange. A couple of years ago, when Green Bay won the championship, I was invited to Green Bay when they played New Orleans, the opening game, and Junior Seau was there representing the San Diego Chargers. We chose to leave the game and go back to the hotel in Appleton before -- we just didn't want to stay and watch the entire game. So I rode back with Junior, and we were in the car, and we were talking, just talking football, just talking in general. When he committed suicide, I had guys in the media call, and they asked me how I felt about it. And I said I'm not surprised. While we didn't talk football, we didn't talk about his issues with concussions. I was not surprised, because I think that when a player is dealing with inner turmoil, oftentimes he won't share that information with anyone else. He keeps it to himself.

    When I was dealing with my issues, you don't share it; you keep it to yourself. As football players, you're trained. It's part of the culture of football. You're trained to keep things to yourself. So whatever Junior was going through, he kept it to himself, and he took matters into his own hands.

    But you could tell somehow?

    I couldn't really tell at that time. If I had known that there was something going on with him, I would have taken him and said: "Junior, whatever you're dealing with, it's manageable. You can live with it. You don't have to take that ultimate step." And you know, when I look at some of these other guys who are having issues who are in the news, I just want to tell them, "Whatever you're going through, it's manageable." ...

  17. Ψ Share

    You know, Mike Webster didn't know there was something called CTE or anything like it that was happening. He just thought he was falling apart. [His ex-wife] Pam thought he was falling apart. They didn't know why, but he was falling apart. He was losing his job; he was driving around in his truck; he was angry all the time. And that's a story that we hear from almost everybody. And they didn't know. That's the kind of problem.

    I knew.

    But you knew because you knew your body and you're a smart guy, I guess?

    I knew because I had had moments where I blew up. I'm not one of these people that would normally blow up. But when I blew up, I blew up. And so I've always--

    What do you mean, you blew up?

    You know, just lose my -- I mean, just lose it, just go off.

    Like break shit or --? Just angry?

    No, no, just angry. I was living with my daughter's mother, and I had never hit a woman, and I prided myself on being a gentleman. But she said something to me, and I just lost it. And I'm a pro football -- I was a pro football player, and I was strong, and I probably could have killed her if I wanted to. I probably could have killed her, and I just lost it, and I hit her, and we got into a fight. And I remember when I hit her, I shocked myself, because I always prided myself on being able to maintain my composure. On the football field, everybody else lost their composure; I had to maintain my composure because I'm the captain. I have to make certain that I keep these guys in the game, that they can't lose their composure. I've got to make sure they stay in the game.

    So I lost my composure. And then all of a sudden I thought to myself, oh, shit, you know? And I sat down. I started writing checks, and I waited on the police to come to arrest me because it was domestic violence. And I'd never hit any woman until I hit her.

    There are guys who have played the game, and if you push the wrong buttons, you're going to get it. And, you know, I told my daughter the same thing. She said, "Daddy, I love you." This is when she was like 13, 14. And she said, "Daddy, I love you." I said: "Yeah, you love me, but there's a side of me that you don't know, and you don't really want to get to know that side. And if you push the wrong buttons, you'll get to know that side." And one day, she pushed the wrong buttons, and she got to know that side.

    There are players who have anger issues that they really need to -- and the best thing that I did was leave her, leave my daughter's mother and just live on my own. And in that way, there's nobody pushing my buttons, nobody saying the wrong things to me to set me off.

    So in time, you know, I've been able to manage myself and not even go there. But there are other guys who don't even think about it, and sometimes, especially if alcohol is involved, they lose it. I make certain that I don't drink, that I'm always in control of what I do. And I never want alcohol to be in my system and something happen. So --

  18. Ψ ShareDidn't he know what he was getting into?

    When you played ball, what was your highest payday?

    Five hundred and fifty thousand, and that was like my last two years, '87 and '88.

    And now, if you were Harry Carson now?

    At the height of my career, I probably would be making about 10, 12 million a year. So we're a long way from the football fields of the NFL. But when I played, I mean, that was pretty good money.

    Well, you think about -- I just think about Mike Webster's body, or Jim Otto's body. The best year Webster ever had was $300,000, I think. You know, a lot of people think, well, these guys make millions of dollars. They know what they're getting into, so what if they --?

    Well, you know what? That is the point that I want to contest with people, because whenever you read an article on a player like the Junior Seau situation, if you go back and you read the comments, people will say -- you'll see comments like: "Well, he knew what he was getting into. He knew that you could hurt yourself. He knew that, and he assumed the risk, and that's why he played the game." Bullshit. That is not the reason why he played the game. Nobody told us. Nobody knew the lingering long-term effects of concussions. When you got paid, you got paid based on your skill, what you brought to the table. They didn't pay you because of the injuries that you would sustain. That's why I get so incensed with people who say that, because they're ignorant people; they don't know. There's no clause in a contract that says: "Well, we're going to pay you a million dollars. We're going to give you $8 million, but a million is for the injuries that you are going to sustain."

    That's not a part of what guys sign up to play. And, you know, you're getting more and more former players who are saying the same thing that I'm saying. Had I known, I would not have done it. ...

  19. Ψ Share
    Others on this topic:
    The Future of Football

    So what can the NFL do?

    Nothing. They can't do a thing. The NFL can't do a thing. The NCAA can't do a thing. High schools can't do a thing. Pop Warner, they can't do a thing. It is the pure nature of the sport. When you have contact, stuff like that is going to happen. So the reality is, you know, kids fall and they hit their head, and the neck muscles are not quite as strong to resist the head going down, and they get concussed. High school kids, same thing. You're playing against a bigger kid, he runs over you or something like that, you get concussed. When you're in college, you have an inadvertent hit. Tim Tebow, when he played, he sustained a concussion hitting his teammate's knee, I think. They happen. It's part of the game.

    Well, and it doesn't even count the subconcussive hits all around the line of scrimmage the whole game long, right?

    Of course, of course.

    No matter what age you are.

    But when you sustain a concussion, the question is -- because you will; you are at risk of sustaining a concussion -- how is that going to affect you at some point down the line? No one knows. And so you're really rolling the dice. And that's why I said my grandson, I love him to death, and he thinks that he's [professional wrestler] Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka jumping off the couch. But I'd rather have him jump off the couch and bump his head than to go out there and intentionally bump his head against somebody else who might give him a concussion.

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