Friday, February 1, 2013

Concussions And Football Double Talk

"Every time I call it a game, you call it a business. And every time I call it a business, you call it a game!"   

The late John Matuszak, North Dallas Forty

Some of that tension still exists in football, though not too many people think it's anything but a business. Still guys go out there and give it their all, they'll run through the proverbial wall for their teammates, their pride, and their next contract.

NFL players have always played hurt. You can't ever question the heart of an NFL player since they've taken hits and gotten up thousands of times since they put on their peewee shoulder pads.

Now the science has caught up. We know more about concussions than we ever have, and teams and players are far more cautious than they've ever been. A player with a head injury doesn't just go back in. He has to go through a battery of tests before he's cleared to re-enter, and team doctors now side with caution. Even if it means sitting their star quarterback for the rest of the game or even into the next week.

Players will ultimately try to prove how tough they are - it's their nature. If they come out, their teammates will be let down or they may lose their job.

Alex Smith was the starting QB for the 49ers when he sustained a concussion against the Rams. He went against every instinctive football principle and told his team personnel he wasn't quite right.

Alex Smith sat out the rest of the Rams game (the only tie of the season), and was replaced by Colin Kaepernick the next week against the Bears (a huge win).

The old adage is "you can't lose your job because of an injury." But Coach Jim Harbaugh decided to stay with Kaepernick, and Smith's concussion forced him out of the huddle and onto the sidelines. And barring an injury to Kaepernick, Smith will be holding a clipboard during the Super Bowl.

So Alex Smith made the right move as far as his overall health goes, but the health of his career - and possibly his finances - took a big hit.

Maybe Jim Harbaugh would have made the move anyway, Kaepernick has proven he belongs at the highest level. But for Smith, he has to make sense of it all. And I'm sure he understands as much as anyone that pro football is a business.

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