Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

AP survey: Concussions not most NFL players' chief concern

During a 15-year NFL career that sent him pinballing over the middle of the field too many times to count, absorbing hits as wicked as they come, former Denver Broncos receiver Brandon Stokley endured injuries that literally ran from head to toe.

And while, by his own estimate, that included at least a dozen concussions, the only health issue that made him seriously contemplate quitting the game was a problem with a small bone in the middle of his foot in his fourth season.

"I told my wife, 'This is it. I'm done. I can't deal with this pain every day,' " Stokley said in an interview with the Associated Press.

Yet he pressed on. Eventually the foot pain subsided. The concussions? Those kept accumulating. Stokley, essentially, shrugged them off, despite the seemingly unending drumbeat of news about the dangers of head injuries. During his playing days, he was more worried about short-term effects than later-in-life ones.

"The thing with concussions is, usually, you're out a week or two, and then you're back fine," said Stokley, 39, who caught passes from one of this week's Super Bowl quarterbacks, Peyton Manning, while both were with the Broncos and, before that, the Indianapolis Colts. "But you mess your knee up, you're out a year. You mess your shoulder up, you're done for a year."

That nonchalant attitude toward concussions that Stokley held while he was active in the league is not all that different from what was expressed by many current NFL players in an AP survey conducted this season and released Sunday. Less than half of the group — only 39 of the 100 players — said they are more worried about the long-term effects of concussions than those of other injuries.

Of the remaining 61 players, 20 either said they are not concerned at all about concussions or less concerned about them than other injuries, while 41 said the concern is equal for all injuries.

"Personally, I don't think about head injuries. They don't affect me," said Nikita Whitlock, a New York Giants special teamer. "I wonder: What are my joints going to be like in 20 years? How will my knees hold up in 20 years? What about my shoulders and wrists? These are the real weak points of your body."

That sort of sentiment was heard repeatedly by AP reporters, as if players were ignoring everything related to head trauma and football.

Just last week, a member of the Giants' 2012 Super Bowl championship team who died at age 27, safety Tyler Sash, was diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy. The disease is linked to repeated brain trauma and associated with symptoms such as memory loss, depression and progressive dementia.

Sash was just the latest CTE headline: The suicide of Pro Football Hall of Famer Junior Seau. The sudden retirement of San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland. The concussion-related lawsuits brought by former players. Various safeguards added by the NFL, including attempts to increase in-game monitoring of head injuries and more vigilant policing of illegal hits.

During regular-season games, the NFL said Friday, there were 182 reported concussions, a 58 percent increase from a year ago.

And yet …

"Not worried," Oakland Raiders running back Jamize Olawale said. "I think it's blown out of proportion."

"You can get a head injury from anywhere," Houston Texans cornerback Charles James said. "A dude could sucker-punch me, and I could get the same injury I get from hitting a running back head-on."

There is, to be sure, a segment of the NFL population that takes concussions and their consequences seriously.

A few players interviewed by the AP mentioned the ability to repair knees or hips, "but you can't get a brain replacement."

"I'm not trying to lose my memory. I need to know what's going on in my life," Detroit Lions cornerback Darius Slay said. "If you get hit in the head and have a concussion, you might forget who your son is, your momma is. I ain't got time for that. … You can take the legs."

As eight-year defensive end Chris Long of the Rams put it: "I try not to think about it, but the evidence seems to be mounting that we're in trouble. Eight years in, the damage is done."

Now out of the NFL for two years, Stokley was asked if he has any concussion symptoms.

His reply: "I'm not really wanting to discuss my standing right now."

As the conversation continued, he noted that he thinks the NFL is improving how it handles head injuries. And that, in turn, is changing how concussions are discussed in the locker room.

"If a guy's out for a couple weeks with a concussion, you're not getting the same kind of stares you did 10 or 12 years ago," he said. "It's a serious injury, and they need to treat it like that."

Comments
Despite injury, Gerald McCoy wants to play this season

Despite injury, Gerald McCoy wants to play this season

Even dealing with a biceps injury and his Bucs at 4-9, Gerald McCoy isn't giving up on playing this season."I'm a fighter," McCoy said Tuesday night. "Y'all know me. I don't quit. I give it everything I have. Even the slightest possibility of being a...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Bucs’ defensive line surprises families with Christmas spree

Bucs’ defensive line surprises families with Christmas spree

The West Club at Raymond James Stadium was packed on Tuesday night with 75 needy local families who thought they were getting a holiday dinner and stadium tour with Bucs players.The defensive line stepped up to give the families a much bigger surpris...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Bucs promote rookie LB Riley Bullough to active roster

Bucs promote rookie LB Riley Bullough to active roster

The Bucs have promoted rookie LB Riley Bullough — a cult favorite back in August after being nicknamed "Joe Dirt" on HBO's "Hard Knocks" — to the active roster after he spent three months on the team's practice squad.Bullough, undrafted o...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Bucs sign ex-USF LB Nigel Harris to practice squad

Bucs sign ex-USF LB Nigel Harris to practice squad

The Bucs have signed former Hillsborough High and USF linebacker Nigel Harris to their practice squad after a workout Tuesday.Harris, 23, has played for the Chargers and Giants already this season as an undrafted rookie. He had 11 tackles in five gam...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Your turn: Who deserves more credit for Bucs’ Super Bowl victory?

Your turn: Who deserves more credit for Bucs’ Super Bowl victory?

Fifteen years later, Tampa Bay's Great Sports Debate continues: Who deserves more credit for the Bucs' Super Bowl victory, Jon Gruden or Tony Dungy? With the Bucs set to induct Gruden into the Ring of Honor on Monday, what do you think? Email your ...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Warren Sapp accused of harassment; NFL Network suspends three analysts over sexual assault allegations

Warren Sapp accused of harassment; NFL Network suspends three analysts over sexual assault allegations

Warren Sapp, a former Buc and Pro Football Hall of Famer, has been accused of sexual harassment while working as an analyst with NFL Network, according to a lawsuit.NFL Network has suspended analysts Marshall Faulk, Heath Evans and Ike Taylor "pendin...
Published: 12/12/17
Rick and Tom podcast: Piling on Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter

Rick and Tom podcast: Piling on Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter

Rick Stroud and Tom Jones discuss what impact the reported rift between Jameis Winston and Dirk Koetter has going forward.
Published: 12/12/17
Explosives? On 40-yard plays, Bucs among NFL’s worst

Explosives? On 40-yard plays, Bucs among NFL’s worst

Bucs coach Dirk Koetter has key statistics that he puts great value in, finding a close correlation between success in those areas and success on the scoreboard. Winning the takeaway battle is always first among those priorities, but he and his staff...
Published: 12/11/17
Updated: 12/12/17
Bucs journal: Brent Grimes matches Richard Sherman for INTs since 2013

Bucs journal: Brent Grimes matches Richard Sherman for INTs since 2013

TAMPA — CB Brent Grimes picked up his third interception of the season in Sunday’s loss to the Lions, tying him for the Bucs’ team lead and with another, more impressive group.Since the start of the 2013 season, Grimes has 20 interceptions, tying him...
Published: 12/11/17
Could report of rift relate to Jameis Winston’s damaged brand?

Could report of rift relate to Jameis Winston’s damaged brand?

TAMPA — What we have at One Buc Place is a game of Clue. The whodunit in this case is the person(s) who put out the information that quarterback Jameis Winston’s relationship with coach Dirk Koetter is on cracked ice.Was it Winston in the weight room...
Published: 12/11/17