Safety Brian Dawkins, who retired earlier this year after 16 seasons of pro football, played most of his career before the NFL became sensitive to the long-term consequences of concussions.
With a lifetime of hits to the head in his rear-view mirror, Dawkins says he’s not worried about what may come.
“Concerns? I have some concerns, but worry? No,” Dawkins said on the Cover Two podcast with Steve Wyche and Jason Smith. “I don’t worry about that. Down the road at some point, later on in life, if I do have to deal with some things at that time, then I have to deal with them. As of right now, I’m going to continue to enjoy life, continue to have a great time with my family and help those who I can help, ministry-wise, along the way.”
Even if health problems arise, Dawkins seems to acknowledge that it goes with the 100-by-53-yard territory he patrolled with reckless abandon and heartfelt zeal.
“I played this game a certain way,” Dawkins said. “I played it with a passion, with fervor. I played with an aggression. I would not change those things. The only thing I would change is the helmet I wore. Technology is better.”
Current players would be wise to heed Dawkins on that point. For reasons ranging from weight to look to a stubborn resistance to anything different, guys fail to embrace new and improved ways to protect the contents of their craniums. That’s a significant part of the culture that the NFL must change.
And while Dawkins didn’t quit the game in order to protect himself from further harm, he seems to be relieved by the fact that he won’t have to think about where and how he’s hitting offensive players.
“I’m not going to say it’s one of the reasons, but . . . to be stepping away from the game now, not having to deal with that stuff, is a good thing,” Dawkins said. “Guys today [are] trying to play that way and trying to understand that you still have to be able to control these territories but you know you’re probably going to get fined or get a flag because refs are told to err on the side of throwing the flag. You’re asking guys to play in the gray.”
White, black, gray, or any other shade, men like Dawkins will continue to find their way to the gridiron. And they’ll play hard. And they’ll accept the risks, of injury or fines or suspensions. And they’ll recognize that, once their careers end, any problems they may encounter later in life are part of the price they paid for their moments in the sun.