Former Eagles and Patriots running back Kevin Turner, who now suffers from a crippling disease that he attributes to injuries suffered in the NFL, said today that he takes a backseat to no one in his love for football, but that he doesn’t believe the NFL has done enough to protect its players.
Speaking on a conference call arranged by the lawyers who filed the “master complaint” against the NFL today, Turner talked about the struggles of living with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease), and he said it’s past time for the NFL to make the game safer.
“I want this game to be around, to be a great sport, a sport that my own boys will be able to play and enjoy all the benefits I believe football has,” Turner said. “But let’s face it and be honest: I feel like the NFL has, over the past couple decades, at least until ’08 or ’09, kind of turned a blind eye to the seriousness of not only concussions but sub-concussive hits and the cumulative effects of those, and how these retired players are having so much difficulty getting along in their daily lives.”
Turner believes the NFL needs to be forced into changes, including changes to players’ practice routines. Turner mentioned two high-profile coaches of his who strongly believed in full contact at practice and would never change their practice habits by choice.
“Bill Parcells and offensive coordinator Jon Gruden were two very intense people who only knew how to practice one way,” Turner said.
The NFL has already taken some steps toward reducing the number of contact practices the players go through, but Turner suggested that the NFL won’t continue taking steps to make the game safer unless the players and former players drag them in that direction. Turner said his role in the lawsuit isn’t about bringing down the NFL, it’s about making the NFL better.
“I love football,” Turner said. “I think anyone would be hard-pressed to find somebody who loved it more.”