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Dominic Raiola offers a glimpse inside the mind of an NFL player

Dominic Raiola AP

Everyone who plays football understands that there are risks involved. It’s a tough, physical sport, sometimes a violent sport, and sometimes a sport that leaves its participants with life-changing injuries. Lions center Dominic Raiola understands all that.

It’s common knowledge that people are going to suffer,” Raiola told the Detroit Free Press. “Memory loss is going to come. You’re hitting every time you step on the field. I’m ready for it.”

But in a glimpse into the mind of an NFL player that shows why these men are willing to put their bodies on the line in their 20s and 30s even if it means they’ll suffer for decades later, Raiola says he’ll gladly accept health problems down the road because he loves playing so much now. And Raiola adds that he wouldn’t join in with the former players who are suing the NFL, because Raiola says playing in the NFL is just too much of a pleasure.

“It’s worth it. It’s totally worth it,” Raiola said. “This is the best job in the world. I’d never trade it for anything, so I don’t know if I could justify suing the league when I’m done, because it’s given me up to this point, 11 years. Even though we’ve lost for 10, it’s given me 11 years of fun. I have fun every time I step on the field, and I think that’s what it’s all about. When I’m at home in my rocking chair at 40, I don’t think I’m going to be thinking about suing the NFL. I’m going to be thinking about those guys I played with in the locker room and, hopefully, these good years coming up.”

What many of the former players who are suing the NFL say, however, is that they didn’t realize the extent to which they were threatening their long-term health. And many of them accuse the NFL of deliberately misleading them about just how dangerous it is to suffer concussions. Although the NFL has recently begun taking proactive steps to protect players from concussions, for years the response to a concussion was something along the lines of, “Shake it off and get back out there.”

Raiola, however, says he’s more than happy to get back out there.

“I think,” Raiola said, “when you sign up for this job, you know what you’re getting in to.”

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53 Responses to “Dominic Raiola offers a glimpse inside the mind of an NFL player”
  1. chadmurdigan says: Apr 18, 2012 9:20 AM

    Famous last words which he’ll regret down the line when all the job-related injury chickens come home to roost.

  2. bigjdve says: Apr 18, 2012 9:20 AM

    Finally an honest player. The other players that are suing just aren’t taking responsibility for what they did.

    An employer is going to tell you to keep working, unless you tell them you can’t.

  3. CKL says: Apr 18, 2012 9:22 AM

    Common sense, he has it.
    Unless players can prove that the NFL had evidence of risk that they deliberately withheld from players, I think suing is lame.

  4. eastsideballa says: Apr 18, 2012 9:24 AM

    As a Lions fan, I love Dom’s attitude and tenacity on the Field, but let’s be honest, he’s a major reason why our run game suffers year in and year out, especially on short yardage situations he’s a liability. Im hoping we can get David Molk at Center in the 3rd-4th rds to replace him, huge value there.

  5. hooks024 says: Apr 18, 2012 9:25 AM

    Lets see how he feels after a half dozen concussions and and surgically repaired knees.

  6. philwauke says: Apr 18, 2012 9:33 AM

    They will have to start putting waivers in contracts.

  7. mark921129 says: Apr 18, 2012 9:33 AM

    You guys cant have it both ways. Here is a player stating he wont sue, and he understands the risks.

    Still he gets mocked.

    You also mock the players who are suing…

    Which way is it going to be???

  8. kevsright says: Apr 18, 2012 9:39 AM

    Every one of the players, past and present, knew banging heads with 250 + pound guys just HAS to be detrimental to your health.
    Suing now is BS…

  9. jglion says: Apr 18, 2012 9:42 AM

    To eastsideballa’s comment, Molk might be a decent pickup somewhere in the middle rounds, but you shouldn’t have any illusions about him. He is a virtual clone of Raiola — tough, smart, strong and savvy, but clearly undersized. Like Raiola, he will struggle against huge nose tackles in 3 -4 defenses. Looks like he’s even a little smaller than Raiola.

  10. lionsfanatic84 says: Apr 18, 2012 9:48 AM

    I’ve never been a fan of raiola until recently. He’s a Tad undersized and doesn’t really plow thru anybody in the run game, but he never gives up, he coulda sold out after being on the 0-16 team,but insisted on getting better, and when he controls his fiery attitude, he’s a great leader.
    Bottom line tho, the line is lions offensive weakness….

  11. longdrive2011 says: Apr 18, 2012 9:50 AM

    There is a quote I have seen often that I like and seems applicable. “”Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take but moreover by the number of breaths that take your life away””

    Would I give up 10 years, or 15 years of the end of my life to be an NFL player for 10 years? It would easy to say yes sitting at my comfortable desk, but I suspect many, many folks who played football in high school and college would give up their left arm just because of their love for the game and all that surrounds it such as team-mate comradeship etc. Throw in the money and how you could live with that in the shortened time frame, and yeah, I’d make that exchange.

  12. effedinLA says: Apr 18, 2012 9:50 AM

    I’m going to be thinking about those guys I played with in the locker room and, hopefully, these good years coming up.”
    He may be lucky to remember anything later in life. Hope it works out for him.

  13. justwaittilnextyear says: Apr 18, 2012 9:50 AM

    Hey hooks024 you know he has been in the league 10+ years. Eastsideballa David Molk are you serious? Do any of you people commenting study and know this game or are you all Mommas basement fantasy football players? Dom was being honest…kinda refreshing I think!

  14. santolonius says: Apr 18, 2012 9:51 AM

    what young people cannot understand is what it is like to wake up one day and look at that guy who used to be you 30 years ago and say… “wow, good looking kid, but i don’t hardly know that person.” when that happens you owe very little to the bold statements and promises that were made by the impetuous kid because they are two different people.

  15. longdrive2011 says: Apr 18, 2012 9:51 AM

    Oops – should have read ““Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.””

  16. omegalh says: Apr 18, 2012 9:53 AM

    The lawsuit is about whether the league knew of the long-term affects and didn’t tell anyone; like the development of ALS and memory loss. Everyone knew getting your bell-rung wasn’t good. Like everyone knew smoking wasn’t good for you. It is when the company starts concealing information to cover their ass and it hurts others. This lawsuit has merit because of the link between concussions and ALS or memory loss. The NFL covered it up. You can parallyl this case with big tobacco.

  17. db3300 says: Apr 18, 2012 9:56 AM

    Cry me a river. Every one of those players who are suing still would have played even if they knew the risks. I hope someone is explaining the risks to the ones who can’t read and getting everyone to sign a waiver.

  18. chrisritch93 says: Apr 18, 2012 9:56 AM

    Pain has a funny way of changing perception, down the road

  19. smalltownqb says: Apr 18, 2012 9:58 AM

    As close as you are going to get to real Gladiators nowadays.

  20. nflfollower says: Apr 18, 2012 10:00 AM

    Neither the NFL or the former players really understood the risk, and since they were both getting rich neither wanted to dig under that rock and risk the cash cow. I don’t believe the NFL deliberately misled former players, any more than those guys misled themselves. What a litigation obsessed society we live in, its sad. They need to close a few law schools, we have enough already.

  21. dcsween says: Apr 18, 2012 10:01 AM

    Its like cigarettes and the big tobacco settlement. Raiola won’t be eligible for any class action later. The League is getting it out now and is going to settle it once globally. The old players’ suit is about the coverup about what the League knew and when it knew it. The current generation of players will be boxed out for knowing and informed assumption of risk. The older players’ now have what healthcare insurance reform calls a “pre-existing condition” that creates some difficult issues about underfunding of treatment, therapy, and palliative care. That is what the settlement will be. How the League finds a way to pay for it is another matter.

  22. macbull says: Apr 18, 2012 10:02 AM

    Great story…but why did the NFL feel it had to withhold information about the dangers of concussions?

    We are talking about withholding information from the players for 80 years…

    The NFL created this situation when they decided to keep quiet about medical information learned in the 20s and 30s, that should have been shared with their players.

    Instead, the NFL put on a charade of sorts, pretending to care about player safety when they were trying to hide information concerning player safety for decades.

  23. cuffhimbanano says: Apr 18, 2012 10:10 AM

    The NFL has long been the modern day version of Rome’s Coliseum games. Only instead of the gladiators dying on the field they conveniently wait until their battlefield days are over.
    This is nice because it saves the masses from the distinction of cheering death. This way, we get to feign that we give a damn about safety and would be abhored if players routinely died on the field.

    Either embrace it or move on.

  24. lionsmark09 says: Apr 18, 2012 10:10 AM

    The guy is honest and he accepts responsibility, something we all need more of. Of course you guys are going to attack his comments.

  25. klutch14u says: Apr 18, 2012 10:13 AM

    hooks024 says: Apr 18, 2012 9:25 AM

    Lets see how he feels after a half dozen concussions and and surgically repaired knees.

    Sounds to me like he realizes he’s being traded millions and millions of dollars for that risk.

  26. tremoluxman says: Apr 18, 2012 10:14 AM

    I’m 64 years old. Let me tell you, your perspective changes with every decade you live. In your 20s and 30s, you think you’re ten feet tall and bullet-proof. Then in your 40s and 50s, you start to gain some real insight into life and what you’ve done with it and what you want to do with what’s left. When the big Six-O hits, you realize that you’re on the down-hill slope and gaining momentum. You really start looking back and wondering if you made the right choices and you’re either content for the most part or you have some serious regrets and wish you had a ‘Do Over’. Personally speaking, I often look back at my 20-something self and laugh at the foolish things I did. There are a number of key decisions I’ve made I would change in a heartbeat if I knew then how they’d impact my life down the road.

  27. tndiver says: Apr 18, 2012 10:18 AM

    The problem is that all athletes are made aware of the risks, whether they get it from the coach, administration, etc. You have to sign waivers about the dangers, etc. Did they just ignore ALL the previous athletes that discussed the issues they have had?

    They knew the dangers but just didn’t want to believe them or thought it wouldn’t happen to them. The NFL also gives seminars on how to manage your money. Do we see the bankrupt players suing the NFL? Take some responsibility. I am paying for my time as an athlete, but I knew what I was getting into and that I may be worse later, but that was the risk I took and these guys ALL did the same thing.

  28. jaydm84 says: Apr 18, 2012 10:25 AM

    Here’s a thought, most people who get older suffer memory loss, it’s called aging.

  29. pturner81 says: Apr 18, 2012 10:28 AM

    Spoken like a true football player

  30. porterhouse12 says: Apr 18, 2012 10:40 AM

    Oh Mr. Raiola, your career earnings through 2011 are $23,983,000. Not bad. I would probably say the same thing. If only those old timers got paid like you have and are set for life.

    Oh, and add the last two years of your contract to the total and now it is $31,433,000.

  31. biggerballz says: Apr 18, 2012 10:41 AM

    the nfl and nflpa should just stop paying out retirements to the guys who couldn’t manage their money. Instead just give them life insurance for life.

  32. biggerballz says: Apr 18, 2012 10:41 AM

    *health insurance for life

  33. LoCoSu@%s says: Apr 18, 2012 10:47 AM

    tremoluxman says:
    Apr 18, 2012 10:14 AM

    lots of wise words…..

    —————————-

    temoluxman – I tried to give you a thumbs up, but the stupid PFT/wordpress software wont let me bump it up.
    In any case, I agree with everything you say. Not to turn this into a philosophical debate on life, but if we had the perspective at 20, what we get beyond 40 – we’d all live much happier lives.

  34. jcd213 says: Apr 18, 2012 10:49 AM

    Maybe there is asbestos in the locker rooms…

  35. nebster21 says: Apr 18, 2012 10:53 AM

    they make enough money to pay for their own life insurance for life. If they are saying the NFL knew about the problems with concussions than they should have known themselves. If a person does not know it is wrong to steal and gets caught stealing a car should that person get off because he does not know it is wrong? Just because that person wants to spend his money right now and not think of the future than that person should have to deal with the consequences.

  36. ruggyup says: Apr 18, 2012 10:53 AM

    “Glimpse inside the mind of an NFL player”? Better yet, how about an ex-player 10 years removed? Careful, it might make you ill.

  37. rajbais says: Apr 18, 2012 11:18 AM

    Better to hear from him than Bill Romanowski!!!

  38. skittlesareyum says: Apr 18, 2012 11:19 AM

    “When I’m at home in my rocking chair at 40, I don’t think I’m going to be thinking about suing the NFL. I’m going to be thinking about those guys I played with in the locker room and, hopefully, these good years coming up.”

    If you’re lucky at 40 you’ll still be able remember the guys in the locker room.

  39. cliffordc05 says: Apr 18, 2012 11:32 AM

    A survey was taken of Olympic athletes a few years ago with similar results. Assumption: that the Olympics operated with no rules governing the use of drugs. If an athlete was faced with the choice of using a drug that would guarantee them the gold medal but also was guaranteed to kill them shortly thereafter; the athletes would take the drug (by a relatively large margin) according to the survey.

  40. JSpicoli says: Apr 18, 2012 11:33 AM

    Ah Youth.

    He has no clue what it feels like to have these ailments. His song will change.

  41. boombabymac says: Apr 18, 2012 11:36 AM

    “. . . is that they didn’t realize the extent to which they were threatening their long-term health.”
    —————————————————————
    So, you had a job that required impacting, often head first, at a full run other athletically gifted humans of 200 pounds plus; and you didn’t realize those impacts could harm your long term health?

    And you graduated college. . . ?

  42. janvanflac says: Apr 18, 2012 11:44 AM

    ““When I’m at home in my rocking chair at 40, ”

    I played some in high school and college. Never was very good, or big enough, so other than a couple of mangled fingers have no lasting ill effects.

    But now I’m 45, and am still a competitive athlete (bike racing) sometimes competing against…& beating…. guys 20 years younger than me. I would have jumped at the chance to play in the NFL….but I can’t imagine what it would be like to have cognitive or physical impairments so severe that I couldn’t function. Obviously it happens to everyone if you live long enough. But not at my age….it’s a tough call….I would have done it in a second and can understand why NFL players do play, but after reading this I’m glad it wasn’t an option for me.

  43. jimmylions says: Apr 18, 2012 12:00 PM

    santolonius is correct.

    Raiola’s attitude is realistic, and that’s a good start. But unfortunately a lot of that swagger comes from being young and not yet understanding how much it sucks to get older!

  44. prrbrr says: Apr 18, 2012 12:11 PM

    I’m sure that tune will change when he can’t remember his kids names and his family is broke due to medical costs

  45. steelbydesign says: Apr 18, 2012 12:20 PM

    It’s nice to see some people out there still take accountability for things that happen in their lives, instead of trying to point the finger at those that have “done them wrong.”

    I don’t doubt that “back in the day” there was more pressure on players to rub some dirt on it and get back out there, but I seriously doubt that players were “mis-lead” about the dangers of concussions. For one thing the NFL or anyone for that matter probably didn’t know exactly what the long term effects were, but they’ve taken steps towards making players more aware now that they are. What more do you really want from the NFL?

  46. mjkelly77 says: Apr 18, 2012 12:21 PM

    eastsideballa says:Apr 18, 2012 9:24 AM

    As a Lions fan, I love Dom’s attitude and tenacity on the Field, but let’s be honest, he’s a major reason why our run game suffers year in and year out, especially on short yardage situations he’s a liability. Im hoping we can get David Molk at Center in the 3rd-4th rds to replace him, huge value there.
    __________________

    Molk is Dom 2.0

    They’re the same size.

  47. realitypolice says: Apr 18, 2012 12:26 PM

    I challenge any of the players that are part of the lawsuits to stand up in a court of law and state, UNDER OATH, that they would not have played if they fully understood the risks.

    And if any of them do, they should be prosecuted for perjury, because they are LYING.

    In order to win money in a civil case, you have to prove damages. You have to show, in other words, that if you had the information you would have made a different decision and spared yourself further harm.

    Good luck with that.

  48. mjkelly77 says: Apr 18, 2012 12:31 PM

    porterhouse12 says:Apr 18, 2012 10:40 AM

    Oh Mr. Raiola, your career earnings through 2011 are $23,983,000. Not bad. I would probably say the same thing. If only those old timers got paid like you have and are set for life.

    Oh, and add the last two years of your contract to the total and now it is $31,433,000.
    __________________

    Pay scales are relative. I worked in a UAW auto factory one summer in college and earned $3.33 per hour. And that included a shift premium. It was considered a top wage. At the time these players were playing, they all made big time money. If they weren’t, they would not have been playing.

  49. itooamamerica says: Apr 18, 2012 12:35 PM

    I think he already had brain damage if he honestly believes that.

  50. ghostofgilchrist says: Apr 18, 2012 12:43 PM

    I think there’s no real substantial proof of memory loss.

    In addition, I think there’s no real substantial proof of memory loss.

  51. scottyd27 says: Apr 18, 2012 12:55 PM

    Rocking chair at 40? I think not. Youth is truly wasted on the young. Life doesn’t begin until you’re 40 son

  52. jpb12 says: Apr 18, 2012 1:27 PM

    When he’s 40 in a rockin chair sitting in his own ‘waste’… his wife will be spending his $ and the state will be asked to help take care of him.

  53. lolb23 says: Apr 20, 2012 1:11 PM

    I’m 64 years old. Let me tell you, your perspective changes with every decade you live. In your 20s and 30s, you think you’re ten feet tall and bullet-proof. Then in your 40s and 50s, you start to gain some real insight into life and what you’ve done with it and what you want to do with what’s left. When the big Six-O hits, you realize that you’re on the down-hill slope and gaining momentum. You really start looking back and wondering if you made the right choices and you’re either content for the most part or you have some serious regrets and wish you had a ‘Do Over’. Personally speaking, I often look back at my 20-something self and laugh at the foolish things I did. There are a number of key decisions I’ve made I would change in a heartbeat if I knew then how they’d impact my life down the road.
    _____________________________

    Very insightful if not totally obvious, but you get a thumbs down for basically saying A) no one should ever play football and B) everyone who does will sue the NFL once they hit 60.

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