The Pro Football Concussion Report

A Fan's Look at Head Injuries and the Concussion Crisis in Football

Damn right I paid a price for it, but I wanted that.

Earl Campbell 1978
Earl Campbell, 1978 (AP)


At 57, Earl Campbell’s in rough shape. Diagnosed with spinal stenosis after his retirement from football, he can now finally walk again after using a wheelchair for 6 years. Earl Campbell was a special player, one of the greatest to ever play the game. But even though his spinal condition is genetic and unrelated to football, it’s really hard to separate the years of football’s physical punishment from the cranky old guy that’s concerned that Roger Goodell is going to start making quarterbacks wear dresses. “I think with the NFL changing that rule (new helmet crown rule) it’s not going to be good at all. I think at some point you gotta say ‘stop’ and let football be football.”

The new NFL helmet rule is a step in the right direction. Sure, there are some great running backs against it, but not all. Jim Brown’s for the new rule. “I didn’t use my head. I don’t think that sounds like a good idea to me. What is my guarantee that my head is going to be strong enough to hurt somebody else, and not hurt myself?” Jim Brown, folks.

Regardless, this is the type of change that might actually reduce the number of brain injuries and more importantly, it may lead to changes in the way Pop Warner, high school, and college running backs attack with their heads. Trent Richardson loves to lower the boom on incoming would-be tacklers as does a 10 year-old kid playing Pop Warner football and wearing a giant Riddell helmet almost as big as his shoulders.

How will running backs not lowering their heads so they can ram into linebackers and defensive backs change the game? For the fans . . . not much. It might not even be that noticeable. Earl Campbell has some of the greatest, most awesome runs to watch on highlight films. Brutal, punishing runs. Some of Adrian Peterson’s more recent pounding runs come to mind, too. But, Mercury Morris was as fun to watch as Larry Csonka. Maybe even more memorable. Although O.J. Simpson’s runs are rarely featured in NFL highlight films these days, too bad, because they were a heckuva lot more fun to watch than Jim Braxton’s runs. And Gayle Sayer’s incredible cuts, turns, and speed has provided some of the greatest NFL highlights ever seen. Big, bruising head-bashing hits from big backs? Please, get over it.

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