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Jason Taylor shines light on pain players go through

Jason Taylor AP

That professional football players are willing to endure pain — both present and future — isn’t necessarily news.

But sometimes a story stops you in your tracks, and reminds you what they’re putting on the line on a weekly basis.

Dan Le Batard of the Miami Herald has a chilling piece on former Dolphins pass-rusher Jason Taylor, including a story about the night Taylor was told he was close to losing his leg.

That’s just one of the grisly details in Le Batard’s piece, but perhaps the one that most graphically illustrates the weekly sacrifice players eagerly make.

Taylor recalled being leg-whipped during a game in Washington, causing a severe bruise to form on his calf. Only the pain became so intense during the night that after trying to sleep in the stairs because it offered momentary relief, he called the trainer, who rushed him to the hospital. When doctors there recommended immediate surgery to prevent nerve damage, Taylor initially resisted, saying he wanted a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews. When he finally got on the phone with Andrews, the doctor told him about the danger of compartment syndrome, and that he’d probably have to amputate if he waited until the morning.

Rather than relief at not losing a leg, Taylor said he was angry because he’d have to miss time.

“I was mad because I had to sit out three weeks,” Taylor said. “I was hot.

“The things we do. Players play. It is who we are. We always think we can overcome.”

Taylor also talks about having to bite onto towels to muffle the screaming that was a natural result of the pain-killing injections he’d get into his feet so he could continue to play.

He admitted lying to doctors. He acknowledged that playing through some of the injuries (as well as regular doses of pain-killing Toradol injections) likely came with long-term problems.

But Taylor also recalled making fun of players who “took up residency” in the trainer’s room, and shrugged off playing games with a catheter inserted into his armpit, which he needed to deliver antibiotics to cure the staph infection he developed.

“Would I do it all again? I would,” Taylor said. “If I had to sleep on the steps standing up for 15 years, I would do it.”

Taylor’s words are far from unusual, which is why league officials can talk all day about making the game safer if it makes them feel better.

Until they can protect players from themselves, there’s only so much they’ll ever be able to do.

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26 Responses to “Jason Taylor shines light on pain players go through”
  1. granadafan says: Jan 14, 2013 1:38 PM

    Owners and coaches are also to blame for pushing players to be the best they can be and give 100% each time. Players also know they’ll lose their jobs if they go out for extended periods of time. What makes players great and being able to reach the highest league and play at a high level is the drive to compete. That’s what they do. It’s like race car drivers at unsafe race tracks. As competitors, they’re SUPPOSED to go all out and as fast as they can. Their team demands, the owner demands it, the sport demands it, the fans demand it, and they themselves demand it.

  2. wpkiessling says: Jan 14, 2013 1:39 PM

    Every football fan should read “Dark Side of the Game” by Tim Green

  3. len462 says: Jan 14, 2013 1:46 PM

    Ronnie Lott would have had the leg amputated so he could get back quicker. Players were tougher back then.

  4. cornersss says: Jan 14, 2013 1:48 PM

    What do people think trainers are doing when a players gets injured, and the trainer is rubbing under his shoulder pads or his thigh or calf? The player jumps up as if he wasnt even hurt a few minutes later. The price is paid later of course to play now.

  5. tdk24 says: Jan 14, 2013 1:48 PM

    That’s why they get the big bucks!

  6. ghosts go boo says: Jan 14, 2013 1:50 PM

    Send this article to Jay Cutler. He needs to see what a real football looks like!

  7. Stupid Raiders Fan says: Jan 14, 2013 1:53 PM

    it’s funny how these players only trust Dr. James Andrews. It’s like he’s the only person with a medical degree in their minds.

  8. ccjcsr says: Jan 14, 2013 1:54 PM

    The price of financial security

  9. nomesayin says: Jan 14, 2013 1:56 PM

    What a great piece, Gantt

  10. cornersss says: Jan 14, 2013 1:56 PM

    but this is why i think the play lawsuits is a shame.

    I think the nfl should pay for players healthcare,especially older players before free agency.

    After that though it was mutual for player and the teams to get the player back on the field asap,even if injured.
    So i dont buy into the players were duped and didn’t know about concussions.

    Smelling salts were made famous

  11. usmutts says: Jan 14, 2013 1:58 PM

    I read the first page of LeBetard’s article and the descriptions of Taylor’s ordeals with just his feet were so gruesome that I could not continue reading.

    Those of you who say unfeeling, ignorant things like “that’s why he gets paid the big bucks” are as disgraceful to humanity as those who cheer and celebrate when a player lies injured on the field.

  12. mike83ri says: Jan 14, 2013 1:58 PM

    How many players have admitted to lying to teams about injuries, then go on to sue the league for “forcing them to play” despite the dangers of playing through said injuries?

  13. stigman2012 says: Jan 14, 2013 2:03 PM

    This was an excellent read. I think Taylor’s story demonstrates why the NFL player lawsuits about concussions will ultimately fail. In tort law there is a concept called ‘assumption of the risk’. These guys, for as crazy as they may be, eagerly assume the risks just to get back out there for one more season, one more game, one more hit. They all know there are risks of serious and possibly permanent injury long before they sign that first contract.

    I’m all for the NFL doing more to provide health insurance to players past and present, but I think there is too great of an expectation on the league in terms of player safety. You have OSHA that regulates industries to make working environments safer, but can never eliminate all risk. The NFL can and should encourage all the technological advances in the equipment possible. However, at the end of the day, this is a game played very roughly by very big men.

    They’ve assumed the risk.

  14. nyjetsfan08 says: Jan 14, 2013 2:05 PM

    It’s like someone asking you, “I’ll pay you 10 million dollars, but you’ll be at great risk for leg amputation, you want in?”

    HELL YES! I think some people would take that bet. And that’s what these NFL players do. I think part of it is the desire to compete, to win, to be there with your brothers, probably not that all different from those in the military who want to go back to war or — to really stretch it futher — victims feeling comfortable with their kidnappers. I think a big part of it, maybe when they get to the NFL, is the money. The guys that last a long time in this league are motivated by more than money, however.

  15. FinFan68 says: Jan 14, 2013 2:12 PM

    Until they can protect players from themselves, there’s only so much they’ll ever be able to do.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Why should they have to protect players from themselves? People are responsible for their own actions. The reasons given are merely excuses for minimizing poor decisions. It is not the NFL’s fault that players lie about injuries. It is the players’ fault. They are either afraid of being out of the spotlight, afraid of losing their job to the next guy up or afraid of being viewed as soft or letting their teammates down. When a player fights through injury to get back on the field (when they are obviously not the best option) it is much closer to cowardice than courage but that’s not how it is viewed. We/the media put them on pedestals until something goes wrong and then we blame somebody else because the players are “heroes”.

  16. CKL says: Jan 14, 2013 2:20 PM

    That was chilling. Add to it that JT is NOT a man who needed the NFL to be successful in life as he is quite smart and good looking. But yet…he went through all this to play.

    I think Brady (and other players in the past have said similar things) said it pretty well the other day, there’s really nothing else like it, no substitute for what players who love the game get out of it.

  17. bearsman says: Jan 14, 2013 2:22 PM

    This is why players need more accountability then what they have done with all these lawsuits. It’s part of there fault too. No makes them play. Try tackling instead of hitting head first.

  18. helix828 says: Jan 14, 2013 2:33 PM

    What an amazing article. In another time, these guys would be kings or generals leading armies onto ancient battlefields.

  19. daddyb1gdrawz says: Jan 14, 2013 2:59 PM

    This was a demonstrative piece of journalism by LeBatard. Really brought to light a sobering reality of the pains players go through. I will never question why a player is not performing up to his level again without considering injury.

  20. titogetmesometissue says: Jan 14, 2013 3:08 PM

    Well, except for Christian Ponder. He certainly is not afraid to take himself out of a playoff game so he doesn’t aggravate a bruised arm.

  21. dylanssongwriter says: Jan 14, 2013 3:11 PM

    I read a good chunk of the piece on Jason Taylor and came away thinking Jason Taylor is stupid. That might sound harsh, but they guy has a family and career to worry about…..use your head and think for yourself nfl players

  22. steelerben says: Jan 14, 2013 4:13 PM

    The NFL is at the top tier of a sport that funnels from every little town and county in the country. You start with thousands of Pop Warner teams, and then you cut down to high school teams, then college, and finally the pros. These are not men that have achieved the highest level by sitting on the sideline or by having a lack of competitiveness.

    You see this across the board, not just football. I watched my *little sister* a *ballerina* come home from practice and peel off toenails while her feet bled. She danced with a stress fracture in her spine for months by eating a steady diet of Advil.

    When there are tens of thousands of people looking to get one of 1696 jobs, you can’t afford to be known as the guy that took himself out of a game because it was bruised, even though he was unable to lift a football above his shoulder without serious pain medication. You don’t want to take yourself out of the game when you’ve torn your LCL and you manage to rip your ACL as well, because we can call that field conditions.

    If not even the FANS can understand that injured players shouldn’t be on the field, how are you going to convince the coach whose next 3.5 million dollars hinges on sending that kid out to think twice?

  23. dretwann says: Jan 14, 2013 5:35 PM

    stigman2012, that particular tort requires one to know the risk they are assuming. It has yet to be proven that the players of the 70s, 80s, 90s or even early 2000 knew the long term risk. I point to the cases involving the popcorn makers. The companies knew the risks but failed to educate the work force (thereby allowing them to make an informed decision) and failed to take appropriate measures to prevent or minimize the risks. Subsequently, those companies are losing millions in lawsuits due to the injuries suffered by employees. You have to know the risk before you can be held accountable for accepting it.

    That logic applies here. We just only begun to learn the long term ramifications of concussions. How can we logically say then that the players assumed the risk of their brains going to mush when they didn’t even know it was possible then? We aren’t talking about current players. We are talking about players 7,8,9 plus years retired. With the info available today, you could say the CURRENT AND FUTURE players assume the risk, but this can’t be retroactive to the older crew.

  24. bobzilla1001 says: Jan 14, 2013 6:07 PM

    There ought to be size restrictions on players and a limit to how long players can play.
    Anyone (Junior Seau) who spends 20 years playing professional football is only asking for trouble. Professional sports were never meant to be played until the participants were eligible for a gold watch. Athletes should be forced to retire after 10 years, tops.

  25. thebigtim2012 says: Jan 14, 2013 7:04 PM

    For every junior seau there’s a Rodney Harrison it’s weird how some brains handle repeated trauma better than others

  26. raiderapologist says: Jan 14, 2013 8:11 PM

    Football isn’t the only profession that puts employees at risk of life and limb, but it is one of the most lucrative. I don’t understand all the hand-wringing.

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