Packers’ Finley discovers concussion’s impact goes beyond the field

A good friend who loves football from high school to the pros admitted recently that he feels increasingly sheepish enjoying a game he knows is damaging many of the players. After decades of applauding monster hits, he has no doubt about the brain damage done. Neither does professional football.

The NFL in August agreed to pay nearly $800 million to settle claims by former players that the league didn’t do enough to make the game safer. Big deal, wrote NewsCut’s Bob Collins:

Let’s face it: Most of us love football. If someone ends up with Alzheimer’s, or shoots themselves, it’s a price we’re willing to have someone else pay. “They knew what they were getting into,” we’ll tell ourselves,except when the kids grab their helmets and equipment, and ask for a ride to the nearest field on a Saturday morning.

I thought about that after watching Green Bay Packers tight end Jermichael Finley detail exactly what happened in a play two weeks ago during the game against the Cincinnati Bengals when he suffered a concussion after taking a hit. It knocked him out and then left him staggering as he recovered and tried to get off the field.  Describing how he felt, Finley said, “My body was just on fire.”

It’s not a tough-guy video, though. No bravado here, no cliches about “strapping it up.”

Instead, Finley recalls calling his wife, who had repeatedly tried to reach him, presumably after seeing the hit. She put their 5-year-old on the phone. He wanted dad to come home immediately.

“She put my little man on the phone and he asked me was there a flight I could catch out during the game,” Finley said.

His son told him, ” ‘Daddy I don’t want you to play football anymore.’ That was a little hard to take. Just hearing a 5-year-old,  knowing the violence and intensity of the game and seeing his father walk off the field like he did, I would think it’s pretty hard  for a family to see.”

The Packers play the Detroit Lions on Sunday. Finley has been cleared to play. The Bengals player who hit him was fined $15,000. Finley, though, called it a “great hit.”

On Tuesday, the PBS show Frontline will broadcast its investigative report on NFL concussions, title “League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis.”