Poll: 85 percent in NFL would play in Super Bowl with concussion
An overwhelming majority of NFL players who were polled anonymously said they would choose to play in the Super Bowl with a concussion, according to results released Monday by ESPN.com. Of 320 polled, 85 percent said they would play.
The concussion issue continues to follow the NFL. The league took a step Monday to show it isn't hiding by inviting a nonprofit group dealing with concussion prevention in youth sports to hold a news conference at Super Bowl media headquarters in Manhattan.
Appearing on behalf of the Sports Legacy Institute was former Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson, who was forced to retire in 2005 because of severe post-concussion syndrome, and Hall of Fame cornerback Mike Haynes, who coaches youth football.
Johnson and Haynes were helping to pitch a new program called "Hit Count'' for youth sports that uses new technology -- sensors inside helmets or headgear -- to measure the impact of blows to the head.
Johnson, 41, won three rings with the Patriots. He said he understands why today's players would compete in the Super Bowl with a concussion even though there's more information about the long-term effects of multiple concussions than when he played (1995-2004).
"The cat's out of the bag,'' he said. "No one can say, 'I didn't know.' They know now. Guys can make informed decisions.''
Asked his opinion of the poll, Johnson said: "I get it. I get it. It's the invisible injury. I can identify with a torn knee. I've had both shoulders reconstructed. Broken foot. We all identify with that. This is the invisible injury. You can't really see. It's like, 'You look OK . . . What's wrong with you? You look fine.'
"Part of it is it's a progressive thing. You could have acute symptoms, but a lot of the issues come much later on in your life, so you're not maybe experiencing initially the impact of concussions. It's later.''
Johnson has pledged to donate his brain to be studied for the long-term effects of concussions. So has Haynes, a two-time All-Pro who won a Super Bowl with the 1983 Raiders.
Haynes, 60, said he hasn't had any post-career concussion issues. As a youth coach, he is involved in trying to prevent concussions by reducing practices and teaching proper tackling.
Asked if he would play in the Super Bowl with a concussion, Haynes said: "I think most football players will hopefully say what I'm about to say: 'What is the real danger?'
"I've had my shoulder popping out, all kind of injuries, and you can deal with the pain. So I say, 'Doc, if I can deal with the pain, is just the worst thing that can happen is me dealing with the pain?' And they say, 'Yeah.' Then you play.
"Now if I ask him the same question: 'If I play with this concussion, can you guarantee me that I'm not going to get dementia or any other brain issues down the road?' Most doctors are going to say, 'No. We can't guarantee that.' So I would not. I would vote not to do it.''
According to the poll, Haynes would be distinctly in the minority.