Reggie Rucker played wide receiver in the NFL from 1970 to 1981, and he says that in his playing days, the culture of the league as it related to head injuries was to treat the whole thing as a joke.
Rucker told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that players routinely returned to games after suffering hits serious enough to cause memory loss, and that players thought it was funny when they’d watch film of a game they couldn’t remember playing in.
“I remember when I was in Oakland and got knocked out by Jack Tatum,” Rucker said. “I remember [trainers] asking, ‘Do you know where you are?’ I said, ‘Oakland, California.’ You sat down for a while, and then you went back in. You’ve been programmed all your life as a professional athlete, particularly in my era, that you could not give in. You had to show your bravado. The next day, when you went back to review the game on film, I’m sitting there and watching something I couldn’t remember. You’re laughing and joking and it’s funny then. It’s not funny now.”
Rucker is one of the more than 2,200 former players suing the NFL, and he thinks the league owes it to those players who laughed through their concussions to take care of them now.
“I’m not angry,” he said. “I’m not vindictive. But I do want my life to be cared for in the appropriate way, if something happens to me as a result of those concussions and those hits, so that I’m not a burden to society or to my family.”