Two weeks ago, the Detroit Lions placed CB Rashean Mathis on IR due to a concussion. While it’s certainly possible that Mathis could’ve been cleared to play by season’s end, both the Lions and Mathis felt it was best to shut him down so that he could focus on his health.
For Mathis, now 35 years old, football has been a blessing. It’s allowed him to earn a great living and support his family, but he’s afraid of how the NFL, and football in general, has forced players to put potential financial gain over their safety, especially with head injuries.
“Like I said, it has a lot to do with parents letting a kid know how important their health is, their brain is. But as of this day and age, being we weren’t taught that, it’s like, ‘OK, this is my livelihood. This is how I feed my family. If I don’t play, I might not stay on this team.'”Featured Videos
It’s that kind of thinking that Mathis hopes stop over the coming years. Football is a game that he loves and is thankful to have played, but people need to realize that their health is more important than anything else. That is something he’s trying to instill into his son’s mind already. And although he will ultimately leave the choice up to him, he he hopes his son chooses against playing football.
“If I’m protecting him from everything, then he’s not going to learn and grow in anything. But my stance on it, from the youngest age that I can, I would try to hinder him from playing it.”
The NFL’s concussion problem is just growing bigger and bigger as time goes on. Just last week, the St. Louis Rams kept QB Case Keenum in the game for two plays after he was clearly concussed, bringing light to the issue with on-field concussion protocols once again. And then, on Christmas, Will Smith will star in “Concussion” as a forensic pathologist who fights an uphill battle against the NFL as they try and hide the massive problems concussions are causing in their sport.
These are the conversations that the NFL wants to avoid, but is unable to because they fail to acknowledge that football is destroying some of these athlete’s lives. For some players, like former San Francisco 49ers’ LB Chris Borland, they are forced to retire early because of the fear of what will happen if they continue playing. For others, such as former San Diego Chargers’ LB Junior Seau, they play through all the pain and eventually, it comes back to haunt them.
Mathis has another year on his contract after this season, but he isn’t sure if he’s going to return to the field yet. Right now, his focus is on getting healthy and doing what he can to make sure the future of others are safe as well, which is why Mathis decided he will donate his brain to research after his death.
“It’s not in my will yet, but I’m sure it will be,” Mathis said. “If you can do anything after, it’s kind of like donating your organs after death. Why wouldn’t you if they are healthy enough to help someone else live or make life better?
“I don’t understand why you wouldn’t do something that could possibly actually make someone’s life better. That’s just me … that’s just how I think mentally.”
At this point nobody is sure what is going to happen in the coming days, weeks, months or years when it comes to the NFL and concussions, but as long as the discussion continues to happen, and strides are made to protect players, that’ll be progress. Because, as Mathis states, even with all the evidence out there, not everybody employed by the NFL is as aware as they should be on the subject matter.
“Probably not so much as people would think, and that’s us as players, us as the PA, us as owners, us as organizations dropping the ball on it,” Mathis said. “It has to be taken personally as well, and the player has to take more responsibility than anyone else to heighten his awareness on what, exactly, is going on and what might be going on and what’s really going on.”
For the NFL’s sake, let’s hope they make strides towards player safety, especially with head injuries. If they don’t, the thought of the NFL becoming irrelevant sometime in the future is realistically in play.