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Ex-NFL player Reggie Rucker: Concussions were funny then, not now

reggierucker Getty Images

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.”

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17 Responses to “Ex-NFL player Reggie Rucker: Concussions were funny then, not now”
  1. packhawk04 says: May 27, 2012 8:39 AM

    Excellent example of the complete and utter morons suing the nfl. “We would laugh seeing a game we couldnt remember playing.” I can see the NFL lawyers now.

    “Your clients are idiots. Thats not our problem.”

  2. skinsfaninnebraska says: May 27, 2012 8:49 AM

    Sorry, but I still can’t see how any of this is the NFL’s fault. Everyone who plays violent games has to understand that there is a risk involved.

    If the prevailing attitude in Reggie Rucker’s time was to laugh off the effects of being knocked out, well, that was not limited to pro football. That same attitude was pretty much the same throughout the entire sports world back then. During those same years I was in school, playing football, soccer, and lacrosse, and I can tell you we all laughed about having our bell rung by a hard hit. For these guys like Rucker, et al, now to come back and say the NFL is somehow liable for this is ridiculous.

  3. chitownjeff says: May 27, 2012 9:37 AM

    1rst,, Helluve player..old number 33#.. 2nd neither of your idiots responding are attorneys.. its one thing to run your mouth about the game.. personnel decisions.. etc.. You have no idea if they have a viable case or not.. You’re the same ones who if the role was reversed in another situation would be on the phone with a local attorney seeking “reconciliation”..

    It was funny.. a snickers even mocked it having a player get knocked silly and running around on the sidelines calling himself Batman.. To paraphase one of Oprah’s best quotes.. “You did what you did when you did it.. because you really didn’t know any better at the time”..

  4. cobrala2 says: May 27, 2012 9:48 AM

    He’s a burden to our webspace and the court system so he IS a burden to society. This guy must’ve been hit in head or something.

  5. watters7 says: May 27, 2012 10:00 AM

    Redgi is wright. It uysst to be funi. But nowe we stawtin to cee sum iffects ov cuncushonz.

  6. philvil41 says: May 27, 2012 10:10 AM

    Leave it to the Assassin to deliver the kill shot.Gotta love the “Soul Patrol”.

  7. fballguy says: May 27, 2012 10:30 AM

    The cops in my town are suing the police department because nobody told them their job was dangerous.

  8. pats54 says: May 27, 2012 10:35 AM

    There are far better men and women who served this country and suffered more than a few concussions during a game. Those men and women endured it with honor because they knew what they signed up for and believed in the service they provided. Contrast that with a bunch of guys who got paid more than they would have had they got a “regular” job in line with their skillset who are now claiming sour grapes because they mismanaged their lives and want someone else to pay for their decisions in life. Ex-NFL Players need to suck it up and move on with their lives.

  9. teddybayer123 says: May 27, 2012 11:26 AM

    Goddell is an idiot. (Artie Lange said he stood next to him at 2012 NFL draft and he was completely devoid of any personality/feeling/human emotions. That a mannequin had more personality). But there has to be a price paid today for the collusion of all mgt and owners and the sham they ran for years.

    Rozelle and Tags knew. How could they not know? There were tetired, broken-down players then, too. They saw the effects of the game and, for whatever reason(s), did nothing. COULD HAVE had them sign a waiver, coulda done a variety of things, but Rozelle and Tags DID NOTHING.

    and now the courts.

  10. CKL says: May 27, 2012 11:27 AM

    They should get nothing unless they can prove the NFL withheld information on concussions. If both sides were operating without information on concussions, it’s silly to act like the NFL should be responsible for it.

    I am sympathetic to the fact that some of these guys are having rough lives now, but they had 30+ more years after their NFL careers were over to have a second career and earn money to keep them from, as RR says “being a burden to society”. It’s sad to see that generation eschewing personal responsibility the same way my generation forward has made an art form of it.

  11. voyager6 says: May 27, 2012 12:14 PM

    The silly part is that every football player knows going in that part of their compensation (salary) is for the risk to their bodies. Whether it be knee, ankle, neck or brain, they already were compensated and accepted the risk to play, whether it be inferred or explicitly in their contracts.

    What is next? Linemen sueing because the overdeveloped cardiovascular system collapses and linemen die in their early 50′s? The NFL didn’t tell them that weightlifting and the ‘supplements’ taken to get big would shorten their lives?

    A point the NFL should use is the players should have to prove that the damage was caused by play in the NFL. If a player suffered a concussion in High School or College, then they can’t say the whole injury was the NFL’s fault. It becomes which concussion caused the most damage and with technology available, this is not possible to determine after the fact.

  12. voyager6 says: May 27, 2012 12:19 PM

    Wasn’t Rucker the TV announcer who claimed on the air to have had dinner with (then) Cincinnati Bengals Head Coach Sam Wyche the night before the Cincy-Cleveland game and was quickly called out for it being a lie by Wyche? If so, maybe the cumulative concussion effects explained that statement.

  13. steviekthr3e says: May 27, 2012 12:33 PM

    I got wasted last night. Complete black-out. I laughed about it in the morning with my buddies.

    But this is outrageous! I’m suing the beer company for damaging my liver!

  14. pftstory says: May 27, 2012 12:39 PM

    Its sad that the players can say things like “we thought it was funny back then” and anyone still gives this case any credibility.
    No one knew what could come from concussions back then. No one knew the helmets did not do enough back then. The players didn’t, the owners didn’t, the trainers didn’t, the equipment manufacturers didn’t.
    Each player should be suing the man in the mirror, he is as responsible as anyone.

  15. dretwann says: May 27, 2012 12:45 PM

    Fans are a disturbing group of people. I don’t mean the casual fan who don’t live and breathe their favorite team. I mean the other crowd. They’re true fanatics from which the word fan is derived. Problem with this crowd is they don’t live in reality. It’s why you can have someone beat and innocent man into a coma in front of his kids after a loss. Its why you can have people not understand why these men are suing.
    Yeah football is a violent sport. Yeah injuries will happen. Sometime catastrophic. Sometimes the effects are not realized until long after they have left the gridiron. The players knew the game was violent. They knew injuries would happen. Broken leg, torn ligaments, organs damaged. But the NFL knew as well and the contention in these arguments is that the NFL may have well know the longer term issues of these injuries but failed to protect their workforce.
    Every employer has an obligation, if not legally, then certainly morally, to ensure the environment is safe to work in. If not, and the environment can not be changed, then compensation for injuries or illnesses from the environment has to be considered. These players had no idea their brains would turn to mush. It is evident by the number of players who have now come out and said, I would not have my son play this game or players leaving before their prime to preserve what they can of their health for their families. Modern day players are making different decisions on and off the field with the information they currently have regarding long term injuries. I have to imagine the older players, given the same information, would have acted differently than they did all those years ago.

    Still the fanatics will ignore this and be concerned for only their entertainment and nothing else. That speaks volumes about the type of “civilized” society we live in.

  16. CKL says: May 27, 2012 1:14 PM

    If they “knew injuries would happen” and accepted it, why were a bunch of them going for more money as part of the CBA, having nothing to do with concussions but because they were physically suffering the toll of playing in the NFL at all? Again, I feel for those guys. I don’t wish permanent damage on any of them. I just don’t see why the NFL should pay for it. It’s like when I destroyed my wrist riding an ATV, if I would have claimed that I have injury so they should pay because it’s dangerous to ride them. My wrist will never ever be right again. Guess whose fault that is? Mine.

  17. dretwann says: May 27, 2012 6:47 PM

    If you choose to hop on an ATV for recreation, that is a personal choice for which no one else shares the burden. If your job requires the use of an ATV, then your employer must bare some of the responsibility as well. I know NFL guys make millions, but at the end of the day it is still a job. Just a really well paid job.

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