FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Timing and circumstance converged on Wednesday night in a way Darrelle Revis never anticipated.
Just three weeks after suffering his second diagnosed concussion, the Jets cornerback attended the New York City premiere of the “Concussion” movie, starring Will Smith.
“It makes you think about other things, but at the same time, I think I’ve still got a lot of football to play. But you never know with these things. This is something serious,” Revis said in an interview with Newsday in the Jets’ locker room Thursday.
On screen, he witnessed his worst fear in the form of cautionary tales about NFL greats such as Steelers Hall of Fame center Mike Webster, who was posthumously diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a neurodegenerative brain disease.
“It hit home pretty hard,” Revis, a University of Pittsburgh alum and native of Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, said of Webster’s story. “Him getting hit 77,000 times in the head — he [did] play a different position, but still . . .
“And these things are happening later on in life. I’m fine now, but they say 28 percent of players are going to get CTE. That’s a big number.”
“Concussion” centers on Smith’s character, Dr. Bennet Omalu, a Nigerian forensic pathologist who in 2002 performed the autopsy on Webster that led to the discovery of CTE. The movie also is critical of the NFL’s handling of brain injuries over the course of several decades.
Late last month, after the family of late Giants Hall of Famer Frank Gifford released a statement saying he suffered from CTE, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell reaffirmed the league’s commitment to preventing concussions and making the game safer.
Revis missed two games after suffering a concussion against the Texans on Nov. 22. He returned last week against the Titans. Asked to describe his worst symptom, he said: “You get fogginess and you just don’t feel [like] yourself. It almost feels like you’re sick and you just don’t feel well, like you have a virus or something.
“ . . . Once you get concussed, you hear stuff but you don’t comprehend it. You talk to doctors and you hear them, but there’s so much stuff involved. So you’ve just got to go through the whole procedure and get your brain back to normal because you’re not in a good place.”
He insists he has no regrets about playing in the NFL (“This is what I dreamed of,” he said), nor does he live in fear of the lasting effects of head trauma. Revis believes there’s a way to combat CTE — but only with the NFL’s help.
“I think there’s a solution to this where, if they help us, then we’ll be fine,” he said, adding that one possibility could be a redesigned helmet with “better padding . . . It’ll help us, the pros, it’ll help college and it’ll help the kids with those things. You don’t want an 8-year-old kid having a concussion. That’s crazy.”
Revis said he liked “Concussion” and called it “educational.” He also noted he’s “a big fan of Will’s” and spoke to the actor at the premiere.
Although he had done his own research on the topic before seeing the film and suffering his latest head injury, Revis said the film illuminated the league’s reluctance to be proactive on preventing brain injuries.
“It kind of tells you the NFL knew this was going to happen in the future and they kind of just slid it under the rug,” Revis said. “They did tests with the helmets colliding and all of that. I mean, that’s what the movie showed . . . If they knew and swept it under the rug, that’s pretty wild. They say it’s big business and things like that, but people have died over this stuff. People really died.”
When reached for comment Thursday night, a league spokesman emailed: “We welcome any conversation about player health and safety. Broader and deeper awareness of these issues will positively impact all athletes. The NFL has made numerous changes to the game to enhance the health and safety of players at all levels of football. These include nearly 40 rule changes in the last decade, strict concussion protocols, and better training and sideline medical care. We are seeing measurable results, including a 34-percent decrease in concussions in NFL games since the 2012 season.
“Additionally, we are funding independent scientific and medical research and the development of better protective equipment to advance further progress. The game continues to change, and the safety of our players remains our highest priority.”
Revis acknowledged that NFL players willingly assume the risk because they have a passion for the game.
“There’s a lot of things you have to push to the side to do this job,” he said, laughing. “I’m not going to approach it any differently than I did any other injury that I had. I think we’re very strong-willed individuals playing in this game, in terms of injuries or pain tolerance. And you just try to fight through those things to play the game you love.”
He added with a smile: “It might be a gift or a curse.”