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Lem Barney thinks football will be gone in 20 years

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Lem Barney was one of the greatest to ever play the game of football.

But the Hall of Fame cornerback said Friday while speaking at a football camp, that if he had to do it all again, he’d rather be a cab driver.

“People often ask me do I miss the game, do I wish I could still play with all the money they’re making today. Even with all of that, I’d say ‘Heck no,’” Barney said, via Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press. “The game is becoming more deadly today. It’s a great game, and I think it’s the greatest game if you like gladiators. It’s the greatest game for yesteryear’s gladiators.

“But in the next 10 to 20 years, society will alleviate football altogether because of how strong it’s becoming, how big it’s becoming and the tenacity that it already is. And it’s only going to get worse.”

Barney has become a vocal critic of the game in recent years, one of the thousands suing the league over concussions. He said upon the death of fellow Hall of Famer Deacon Jones that he thought head injuries likely played a part.

He said he told his son years ago he didn’t want him playing football, and repeated that advice to his grandson, who is going to play at Jackson State (Barney’s alma mater) this fall.

Barney was speaking at the Sound Mind Sound Body Camp in Southfield, Mich., alongside Michigan coach Brady Hoke and Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio.

Both coaches were apparently shocked by the comments, and talked about using proper instruction to make the game safer — which is probably more in line with what the kids at the football camp were expecting.

And while Barney’s stature in the game makes his opinion worth listening to, it’s also the opinion of a plaintiff in a court case, which has to be considered as well.

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79 Responses to “Lem Barney thinks football will be gone in 20 years”
  1. floratiotime says: Jun 14, 2013 12:48 PM

    What’s the bottom line? How much money does he want?

  2. dryzzt23 says: Jun 14, 2013 12:51 PM

    Barney is a “victim”….yeah right….the NFL “forced” him to play football.

  3. sportnorcal says: Jun 14, 2013 12:52 PM

    “But in the next 10 to 20 years, society will alleviate football altogether because of how strong it’s becoming, how big it’s becoming and the tenacity that it already is. And it’s only going to get worse.”

    HUH?

    If they alleviate it, doesnt that by definition make it less severe? None of this argument makes any sense beyond saying that players are getting bigger and stronger.

  4. taintedsaints2009 says: Jun 14, 2013 12:53 PM

    Tackling will be gone. The game won’t be.

  5. drock36 says: Jun 14, 2013 12:54 PM

    Unfortunately for Lem, he will be long gone before the NFL.

  6. beavertonsteve says: Jun 14, 2013 12:54 PM

    Football will never go away. Worst case scenario we’ll be watching Cyberball in 20 years.

  7. osiris33 says: Jun 14, 2013 12:54 PM

    What load of self serving bilge. Deacon Jones Watson his 70′s. news flash, people die all the time at that age. And please tell when the last life altering injury occurred in the NFL? I can think of Lomas Brown, and he got a serious eye injury because the ref threw a flag in his face.

    No one has been really seriously hurt in this game since Darrell Stingly, and that was 1978.

  8. stlunatik says: Jun 14, 2013 12:57 PM

    sounds like someone’s jealous he wasn’t earning what the players are today.

  9. Stupid Lions Fan says: Jun 14, 2013 12:57 PM

    Naive much? I’m sure a billion dollar powerhouse and most popular sport will be gone soon because it’s dangerous. Lem apparently doesn’t understand business or what the mighty dollar can do.

  10. micklethepickle says: Jun 14, 2013 12:58 PM

    Here’s a hint – we live in a society that sold HIV-contaminated plasma to 3rd world countries, because the pharmaceutical company that owned the supply wasn’t willing to take a financial loss (look it up – that happened).

    NEWS FLASH! As long as money can be made having a National Football League it will exist, regardless of whether or not the players’ brains are being turned to mush.

  11. crackills says: Jun 14, 2013 12:59 PM

    Even 30 years ago.. you didn’t need to be genius to figure out that hitting people with your head.. repeatedly, can have detrimental effects to your health. (given.. most of these guys are far from geniuses)
    Guess what.. working in mines is also bad for your health, being a garbage man… probably not great for health, etc.. yet others do it for a tiny fraction of what football players make.

  12. ketelwon says: Jun 14, 2013 1:01 PM

    One of the greatest EVER?? Get real.

  13. Exiled1 says: Jun 14, 2013 1:01 PM

    really get over it.

  14. jaxbeachjagfan says: Jun 14, 2013 1:02 PM

    “please tell when the last life altering injury occurred in the NFL?”

    Korey Stringer?

  15. cliffordc05 says: Jun 14, 2013 1:02 PM

    Its a shame that such a great player is ruining his reputation with such self serving crap.

  16. growuppeterpan says: Jun 14, 2013 1:08 PM

    Umm what?? Gladiator sports were thriving 1700 years ago. Mayan ball court players a thousand years before that…. I’m going to go out on a whim here and say that football will be just fine in 20 years.

  17. fwippel says: Jun 14, 2013 1:09 PM

    Lem Barney was a great football player.

    If Barney was asked if he had to do it all over again, I wonder what he would say. Would he choose to play football, or would he find another line of work?

  18. jamaltimore says: Jun 14, 2013 1:13 PM

    I guarantee you he has a much greater chance of dying in his preferred job as a Detroit Cab Driver than as starting member of the Detroit Lions!

    I do believe the game is at risk going forward but here’s a news flash for all the head injury sue the league crowd, stress, injury and disease affect EVERYONE regardless of your job and lifestyle. Play sports or don’t but once you decide to how about you just accept the consequences.

  19. gg206 says: Jun 14, 2013 1:13 PM

    Osiris 33: you might wanna rethink your statement; david jones is Deadon’s name, not deacon jones Watson, Reggie brown, mike utley, last year Quincy black had major even severe injury.. I believe that was Orlando brown whi was hit by the flag not lomas brown.. Just some factual errors you need to correct before you continue your point

  20. lions81slappy says: Jun 14, 2013 1:15 PM

    @osiris33- just because u don’t see the injury happen directly on tv doesn’t change the fact that a multitude of former players have serious health probpems after they retire. whether it be knee injury so bad they xan hardly walk or a brain injury that has worsened over time and they have difficulty speaking as was the case with deacon the last few years of his life

  21. larrydavid7000 says: Jun 14, 2013 1:15 PM

    OK who is this guy and I think he got hit in the head one too many times. I can respect his thoughts but its time to let it go and go away.

  22. cfballfan1 says: Jun 14, 2013 1:15 PM

    He did make a case for degenerative brain injury with his comments, which are the ranting of a bitter, possibly unbalanced, old man.

  23. jayniner says: Jun 14, 2013 1:19 PM

    Thank you to these guys for fighting in the trenches and allowing football to evolve into what it is today, but……

    It appears most of these guys are just mad they didn’t get paid the big bucks the guys today are getting.

    Love of the game is more important….

  24. thegreatgabbert says: Jun 14, 2013 1:20 PM

    Football thinks Lem Barney will be gone in 20 years. Vegas odds are heavily weighted on the side of football.

  25. cflick101 says: Jun 14, 2013 1:20 PM

    OSIRIS33 ARE YOU FOR REAL NO ONE HAS BEEN SERIOUSELY HURT SINCE 1978 WHAT IS YOUR IDEA OF SERIOUSELY HURT I WOULD SAY MIKE UTELY BEING PARALIZED IS SERIOUS AND COUNTLESS OTHERS WHO HAVE HAD SPINAL INGERIES .I DONT AGREE THAT THE GAME WILL BE GONE IN 20 YEARS BUT THERE WILL BE MUCH MORE EMPHASIS ON TECHNIQUE TO LOWER THE CHANCE OF INGERIES

  26. chicagobtech says: Jun 14, 2013 1:27 PM

    @osiris33

    Korey Stringer passed due to heat stroke in training camp in 2001. Joe Theisman’s leg was broken in 1985. Kevin Everett’s spine in 2007. Reggie Brown needed CPR on the field in 1997 after an injury. Mike Utley was paralyzed in 1992.

    It’s a vicious sport that sometimes leaves its participants broken on the field, be it the practice or in front of a stadium full of fans and cameras.

  27. wikipediasaidso says: Jun 14, 2013 1:35 PM

    I bet most of the kids at the football took what he said to heart about as much as his soon-to-be college football player grandson.

  28. txraiderfan says: Jun 14, 2013 1:37 PM

    Many blue collar workers all across America every day perform work that is MORE dangerous than playing football, and they get paid a he!! of a lot less to do it. Quit crying

  29. wholelottaawesome says: Jun 14, 2013 1:37 PM

    Hall of fame player tells his grandson not to play football and the kid still does? Seems like he didn’t try real hard. If I was concerned for the safety of my children they would truly understand. Seems like he’s more passionate and convincing in front of cameras and microphones than he is to his own family. I will no longer read anything pertaining the Lem Barney.

  30. toonloonboon says: Jun 14, 2013 1:38 PM

    another example of you cant trust a person with two first names (if “lem” counts)

  31. rb5150 says: Jun 14, 2013 1:39 PM

    “please tell when the last life altering injury occurred in the NFL?”

    Kevin Everett?

  32. txraiderfan says: Jun 14, 2013 1:39 PM

    “Football thinks Lem Barney will be gone in 20 years. Vegas odds are heavily weighted on the side of football.”
    And I guess when he drops dead at 90, it will all be because of football

  33. antalicus says: Jun 14, 2013 1:41 PM

    How old do you have to get when you die as a retired football player before they stop saying head injuries played a part. Deacon Jones was 74…

    We all know the way you live your life determines how you die. Would you rather be someone who made an impact and died young or someone who hardly scratched the surface and is living to 100?

  34. pgh15212 says: Jun 14, 2013 1:42 PM

    ….and baseball will still be here.

  35. stull60060 says: Jun 14, 2013 1:42 PM

    I agree with Barney about football going out of business in the near future. However, I disagree as to the reasons. Football will be regulated and litigated out of existence by lawyers and PC liberals who in their delusional minds think they know what’s best for everybody but themselves. When that happens ESPN, the media in general and high schools, colleges and universities will be out a lot of money.

  36. possumsauce says: Jun 14, 2013 1:43 PM

    Dennis Byrd? Osiris, I know you’re the god of the underworld and all, but must you live in a cave when it comes to news as well?

  37. afcdomination says: Jun 14, 2013 1:46 PM

    get rid of football, and it would absolutely crush so many of us.

    I think there is frustration in that a lot of us have family member’s who have put their lives on the line in war, and haven’t heard ANY complaints as opposed to these football players who are now paid more than the President of the United States if you are any good.

    its frustrating. if you have such a problem with it, then don’t play and don’t get paid. but nothing annoys me more than a guy who fully enjoyed the NFL, then years later is in full regret, expecting us to care.

  38. antalicus says: Jun 14, 2013 1:47 PM

    The NFL could change so much that people start to miss how it was and a new league could form based on old rules with players that aren’t so concerned about injuries.

  39. bmorefootball says: Jun 14, 2013 1:48 PM

    Why is Lem Barney the Dinosaur trying to be relevant? $$$?

  40. sb44champs says: Jun 14, 2013 1:52 PM

    taintedsaints2009 says:
    Jun 14, 2013 12:53 PM
    Tackling will be gone. The game won’t be.
    =============================
    Ok, looks like we have a regular Einstein here… Actually, looks like we have a jealous Einstein according to screen name, lol

  41. condor75 says: Jun 14, 2013 1:53 PM

    dryzzt23 says:
    Jun 14, 2013 12:51 PM
    Barney is a “victim”….yeah right….the NFL “forced” him to play football.
    Everyone works their jobs voluntarily, still doesn’t require you to be exposed to unnecessary or purposely disguised risks

  42. dprouse says: Jun 14, 2013 1:53 PM

    It’s always amusing to hear of the rumored demise of football, all while UFC continues to make money hand over first and grow in popularity every year. This just in – fans don’t have a problem with the violent collisions, and neither do the players. That’s what they signed up for.

    Sadly, Lem Barney has become a bitter old man, and one who is looking to collect some jack from a big lawsuit. His views aren’t shared by a majority of former players – not even close. He speaks for no one but himself.

  43. hrmlss says: Jun 14, 2013 1:55 PM

    I’m guessing he has glaucoma, and had just smoked his medicine…..

  44. lions81slappy says: Jun 14, 2013 1:55 PM

    and by the way to all the haters here, why all the personal insults against lem? because he has a different viewpoint than most of you? because you are jealous he played and you didn’t? I know the guy personally and he is one of the most genuine and sincere people out there. he is incredibly intelligent and affable and to me he is the furthest from bitter you could be. money definitely plays a role in the nfl and for that reason i feel he is mistaken in his belief but that doesnt mean he is wrong. it is an opinion(which we are all entitled to for better or worse) so if you want to logically refute his idea then go ahead, but stop attacking his personal character

  45. ColtsWinColtsWin!! says: Jun 14, 2013 1:56 PM

    idiot

  46. hrmlss says: Jun 14, 2013 1:59 PM

    I think he meant to say that the new London and LA franchises will be gone in 20 years.

  47. Mr. Wright 212 says: Jun 14, 2013 2:07 PM

    Anything to continue feeding that frivolous lawsuit…

  48. anonymousnevermindfishdeath says: Jun 14, 2013 2:13 PM

    Deacon lived to an old age–if he died at the age of 45, maybe you’d have a point.

  49. conormacleod says: Jun 14, 2013 2:38 PM

    Well. That was ridiculous.

  50. 187crossbuck says: Jun 14, 2013 2:42 PM

    What he meant was that football in Detroit will be gone in 20 years.

  51. shlort says: Jun 14, 2013 2:47 PM

    Football will be around for as long as there is people willing to play the game. That means there will always be football as long as there is people.

    Football is the ost popular sport in the USA. I don’t see it being gone because some clown like Lem thinks it will be. He is just mad because he didn’t get paid like guys do today. That kind of money is well worth the risk to people not intelligent enough to get a job in the real world.

  52. mouthbreethingslayer says: Jun 14, 2013 2:48 PM

    I am surprised by the reaction to these comments. Yes, the NFL is an absolute financial powerhouse with all signs (new stadium construction, revenue, etc…) pointing upwards. Plus, they have a good product and market it in such a manner that would make 50′s cigarette companies jealous. However, you have to be ignorant to deny parallels between boxing and the NFL. Once boxing was THE top sport for decades in the US and UK, but when the public fully realized the long-term effects, which is illustrated best by it’s most-charismatic champion, Ali, who today cannot put pen to paper. As a result, with the exception of the very poor and Latino communities, the talent pool dried, the product suffered (many other factors also played a role), and the once top entertainment industry is now an afterthought in the world of sports. Not saying the NFL will follow an exact trajectory, but decline is inevitable in all things, and the lesson boxing provided is not trivial.

  53. evilglazers666 says: Jun 14, 2013 2:50 PM

    Does big money have anything to do with this? I remember the NFL was just about the game of football. Now it is about maximizing profit. So sad. Keep tackling in football! We don’t want twenty games of two-hand touch!

  54. hehateme2 says: Jun 14, 2013 2:56 PM

    cflick101 says: Jun 14, 2013 1:20 PM
    ENOUGH with the all caps dude. Stop yelling.

  55. thegreatgabbert says: Jun 14, 2013 3:04 PM

    For those wondering what Lem has been doing the past 20 years or so, I think he may have been teaching Cam Newton how to speak English.

  56. Mr. Wright 212 says: Jun 14, 2013 3:29 PM

    mouthbreethingslayer says: Jun 14, 2013 2:48 PM

    I am surprised by the reaction to these comments. Yes, the NFL is an absolute financial powerhouse with all signs (new stadium construction, revenue, etc…) pointing upwards. Plus, they have a good product and market it in such a manner that would make 50′s cigarette companies jealous. However, you have to be ignorant to deny parallels between boxing and the NFL. Once boxing was THE top sport for decades in the US and UK, but when the public fully realized the long-term effects, which is illustrated best by it’s most-charismatic champion, Ali, who today cannot put pen to paper. As a result, with the exception of the very poor and Latino communities, the talent pool dried, the product suffered (many other factors also played a role), and the once top entertainment industry is now an afterthought in the world of sports. Not saying the NFL will follow an exact trajectory, but decline is inevitable in all things, and the lesson boxing provided is not trivial.
    —————–
    All that mouth breathing has restricted air to your brain. You are overthinking things here.

    Ali did a lot of this to himself with his arrogant rope-a-dope style, and refusing to retire even when Pacheco was telling him that he was risking long term damage with the shots that he was taking by letting his defense down, plus advanced boxing age.

    And I don’t know what rock you live under, but the highest paid athlete in sports is a boxer. Are there aliens paying to attend and watch these fights, or are you just that misguided with this comment?

  57. nbarber2013 says: Jun 14, 2013 3:30 PM

    Don’t want to get hurt then don’t play. suing the NFL for injuries is ridiculous. I am going to sue Mcdonald’s for making me fat

  58. steves11 says: Jun 14, 2013 3:33 PM

    Many many men who never played football in their lives die younger than Deacon Jones every day. To blame his death on the effects of football is not justified at all.

  59. cincyhokie says: Jun 14, 2013 3:35 PM

    Well, there’s a very very good chance that the economy will have crashed by then. Who knows what will happen to professional sports in general.

    Don’t believe me? Look into what going on with the Federal Reserve, the healthcare, SS, college loan, credit situations right now.

    They’re all in crisis. Oh, and we’ve recently decided that assisting in a war in Syria with our tax dollars is a good idea. Wonderful.

    Nothing is permanent. Enjoy football while we have it.

  60. dtlb58 says: Jun 14, 2013 3:37 PM

    .and baseball will still be here.
    Boring is all to death. Oh, wait.

  61. metrocritical says: Jun 14, 2013 3:42 PM

    Shrewd legal maneuvering. Under the guise of a simple event, Lem Barney demonstrates the effects that head injuries have had on his vocabulary and logic, thereby bolstering his claims against the NFL.

  62. marthisdil says: Jun 14, 2013 3:42 PM

    “No one has been really seriously hurt in this game since Darrell Stingly, and that was 1978.”

    ===================

    Really? Joe Theismann called…he’d like to talk to you…

  63. farvite says: Jun 14, 2013 3:46 PM

    Go back to leather helmets and suspend or ban the headhunters.

    Lets see how “deadly” the game is then.

  64. seaeagle707 says: Jun 14, 2013 4:05 PM

    Okay Lem, LISTEN UP!!! Since football will cease to exist in 20-years (your humble opinion), then there’s no need to teach today’s youngsters the game. As there’ll be no need to teach the game, there’ll be no need for football camps such as the one you used as a platform for your rant. As there won’t be any camps or other football oriented youth activities, you won’t be getting paid decent bucks to show your face and mouth off.

    Time to man up Lem, and go get a job driving a hack for some schlock operator. But just imagine all of the great stories you’ll have to tell to all of those who’ll be your captive audiences for ten minutes a day.

    A win-win for everyone (except the passengers).

  65. beedubyatoo says: Jun 14, 2013 4:17 PM

    Get some perspective, folks. Barney is speaking as a career-long player with the Lions.

    Pro football has been gone from Detroit for at least the last 20 years.

  66. orivar says: Jun 14, 2013 4:19 PM

    I doubt it. There’s always going to need to be a venue for people to express their inner gladiator.

  67. filthymcnasty1 says: Jun 14, 2013 4:20 PM

    Just 20 years?

    How are the Vikings supposed to finally win a championship with so little time left?

  68. b3nz0z says: Jun 14, 2013 4:37 PM

    i know it makes me a jerk, but i really don’t care what retirees think about the current state of their respective fields. we get it, everything was way better before we were born. now shut up and let us live the crappy lives we’re doomed to because we weren’t born when you were.

  69. thesportgenius says: Jun 14, 2013 4:44 PM

    Lem Barney? Really dude, you sound like you must have had a few to many head shots. Just another Lion’s Loser. And Decon Jones is probably responsible for a thousand concussions inflicted on the opponent with his now outlawed head slap. What about ice hockey,boxing and MMA, might as well get rid of them too. While your at it lets eliminate soccer which is ranked #3 in High school sports for head injuries. Lets all wrap ourselves in bubble wrap and stay inside.

  70. nyfcat says: Jun 14, 2013 4:46 PM

    Perception is reality. The more it is marketed as a sport that leads to early deaths and brain damage (true or not), the more parents are going to encourage their kids to play baseball or basketball instead.

  71. raideralex99 says: Jun 14, 2013 4:52 PM

    Construction workers building the stadiums are more in danger of getting injured or killed than the players.
    Seriously every job has its risks … you don’t like your job get another one.

  72. mouthbreethingslayer says: Jun 14, 2013 5:15 PM

    “You are over thinking things here.” – Famous last words of a simpleton.

    The basic principle of the argument that the NFL needs to hedge against the erosion of its talent pool by protecting players is valid. Obviously the dynamics of boxing and football are different, as was the milieu of the day, but at bare minimum it serves as a good example of what can happen to a seemingly invincible entertainment machine.
    Lastly, just because Mayweather is the highest paid athlete does not mean that boxing is still a top-3 or even top-5 money generator in the world of sports entertainment. As an example, because Kimi Raikkonen, an f1 driver for Ferrari, made $45 M last year does not mean that f1 is an global leader in sports. See how logic works?

    Change is inevitable. Only foresight guided by lessons of the past will maximize the length of the NFL as a massive money making entity.

  73. nosloekim says: Jun 14, 2013 6:01 PM

    Why is it every time I see a picture of Lem Barney it is when he is being honored at a football game? He is speaking at a football camp? If football is so bad, why not stay away from the stadiums and camps where football happens? If you do not like something, stay away from it. Or, could it be no one will listen anywhere else?

  74. lions81slappy says: Jun 14, 2013 7:00 PM

    this mouthbreething slayer guy makes some great points. please comment more. maybe some of these idiots will learn something

  75. 1509lucky says: Jun 14, 2013 7:29 PM

    Disagree with the Mans opinion all you want,but the level of disrespect and overall ignorance of His career accomplishments just show how incredibly obtuse a lot of these keyboard warriors are.

  76. keepyerstickontheice says: Jun 14, 2013 8:44 PM

    It’ll be gone in 20 years because nobody will pay to watch flag football.

    Scarcity is/was its best selling point, and now that we have Sunday, Sunday night, Monday night and now Thursday night football, it has reached the saturation point. Next is an 18-game season, then a best-of playoff series. The goose has been cooked.

    We are witnessing the beginning of the end of the golden age of this sport. The last decade or so of SuperBowls have been the best, most competitive series of championship games ever played (except for the Colts-Bears rainy mudbog).

    It’s all downhill from here.

  77. te139 says: Jun 14, 2013 9:27 PM

    What a dumb comment. The NFL will be here in 100 years!

  78. nflofficeadmin says: Jun 14, 2013 11:23 PM

    All good things must come to an end… It happened with boxing and baseball, it will eventually happen with the nfl.

  79. jbeatzz says: Jun 15, 2013 1:54 AM

    the game isnt going anywhere, it is engrained in our culture and too many people love it! and theres way too much money! sure the popularity may decline but the 3 majors arent going anywhere anytime soon. I play college football and we all sign a waiver stating that we know the risks involved and we still sign without thinking twice, and we play for free and its not like im some kid who doesnt know any better, im 36! Everyone knows the risks but we love the game so much that were willing to take that risk and so did lem barney. the game is changing, no doubt and it changed when they took away the headslap, clothesline, defensive holding after 5 yards, etc…life evolves and so does the game.

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