Harry Carson: Knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t play football

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Add Harry Carson to the list of players who found fame and fortune through football, and now wish they hadn’t.

Carson, the Hall of Fame former Giants linebacker, told CBS New York that the effects of hits to the head aren’t worth the benefits of playing football.

“From a physical risk standpoint, I knew that you could get hurt physically and I assumed that risk,” Carson said. “But from a neurological risk standpoint, I didn’t know. So knowing what I know now, I would never have played football.”

The 58-year-old Carson says he doesn’t feel the effects of football on his joints as much as he feels it in his brain.

“Physically I feel pretty good,” he said. “But you know there are days when I have not so good days, when I have headaches and blurred vision and all that stuff, so it’s something that I’ve learned to live with. I live a pretty normal life.”

Just a life that was affected by a lot of hits to the head that Carson wishes he had never taken.

24 responses to “Harry Carson: Knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t play football

  1. The irony of this is that if Carson had never played football, no one would ever CARE what his opinion is.

  2. Yah… right. Sorry Harry… Rewind and stare at that 75k a year job in one hand and NFL career in the other and honestly tell me you’d pass on the NFL.


    There are inherant dangers in ALL physically demanding professions… sports or otherwise.
    To eliminate risk of injury is to stay home and hide.

    You do the best with what you have at the time, anytime and everywhere.

  3. I call BS on 99% of the players saying “If I knew then, what I know now I would not have played”
    The players today know all these things and continue to play.
    And in 10-20 years, current players will probably be saying the same thing.
    Not saying they arent in pain, but I dont buy the excuse.

  4. Right, that’s why so many players of today are getting out because of the fear they have of brain damage.
    Just look at Laurent Robinson, it’s only week 5nd he’s had 3 concussions this year yet he’s coming back.
    It’s just the spotlight grabbing thing to say for the old timers looking for 5 more minutes of fame.
    It’s the same with all these lawsuits by the thousands of players, gimme a break, that’s just a money grab, if it wasn’t they would be taking the NCAA and High school systems to court too but those 2 don’t have NFL money do they?

  5. @BA – exactly.

    Frankly, some of the ‘safety’ devices are the cause of more violent actions and risks.

    W/O extensive pads and helmets, you didn’t see the ‘launching’ that is causing the neck injuries we see today. Go back to jersey’s and leatherheads.

    Name the players who by CHOICE passed on a lucrative and star-filled NFL career KNOWING everything we know today.

  6. The legal question isn’t “if you knew then what you know now, would you still play?” It is “If you knew then what the NFL knew then, would you have stopped or never played?”

    And by the way, players like Carson weren’t looking at an NFL career or a $75k/year. It was more like a $25-35k/year job. Makes the NFL look a lot more enticing.

  7. Of course no one can read minds, but my best guess is Carson WOULD play – even if he received an hour in a rookie symposium briefing him on the neurological risks involved.

    Guys who love to play football … PLAY FOOTBALL, especially when it’s a lucrative profession with so many perks on top of that. At 22 years old, athletes generally feel at least some measure of invincibility.

    I think what Carson meant is now, as a man nearing his 60’s — his emphasis has shifted to things vastly different than they would have been 30-40 years ago. Sounds like a case of buyer’s remorse.

    But without question, I wish Carson well. It’s just hard to believe his 22 year old mind would do things differently. You see any elite college athletes turning down the chance to play pro football? We’ve seen Hard Knocks — it’s the opposite of that.

  8. His perspective is not hard to comprehend; neither is the fact that the current lot of players continue to play.

    As humans we have positive outcome bias, especially for things we can’t quantify. Lung cancer patients who had a lifetime of smoking will tell you the same thing; had they been able to measure the physical toll each cigarette was taking on them they would have stopped earlier.

    Just as a smoker who has the clarity to admit that he/she smokes regardless of what will happen or a lung cancer smoker who admits he/she wishes a different path, I respect Harry for offering his honest perspective on the matter.

    He has materially gained much from his career but health comes first, integrity a close second. A message that can never be shared enough given the current state of society.

    Good luck Harry.

  9. What is the difference between the young man who played for Rutgers that is paralyzed to this date. Once you put on that uniform, you already know what the consequences are.
    I remember playing as a little kid, I was running the ball and a very much larger kid was heading straight for me. I do not think I have to tell you what went through my mind, while this guy look like he was ready to eat me for breakfast. I respectfully dropped that football and he went straight for the ball.
    The story is you already know you are in danger from head to toe when you step onto that field. Whether you are on offense or defense you are subjected to joint pain or head pain.

  10. yeah ok Harry , heard that one before . Try, If I like hundreds of other players that are retired would of known to actually use the free education that was given to us , along with saving and investing our money , We would not be a bunch of veggies trying to squeeze dollars out of the NFL now that we are broke.

  11. Knowing what I know now…there is a litany of decisions I would change in my life.

    20/20 hindsight decisions don’t carry much weight. Things in life not turing out like planned, well, that is pretty much life in general, I think.

  12. Harry I have always respected as a player but I have to call BS on this one.

    If your so upset with football why were you at Giant Stadium yesterday doing the pregame show on WFAN.

    I saw you with my own to eyes that were not effected by to many shots to the head.

    Do I think you should be taken care of by the NFLPA yes but please do not talk badly about what you have done very well off for your whole adult life.

  13. Avg age of players is 22-28 years old. I know at that age I felt invincible. I also know there are a lot of professions where you risk your life or long term physical and health damage over your career. At today’s salaries I would play the game if I had the opportunity. Many people have regrets later in life.

  14. Regular working people are tired of hearing these stories. You play the game for the money and fame, and you know the risks going in to it! Many mainstream jobs have injury issues as well: construction, public service such as police/fire, farming, just to name a few. You know going in the risks and you don’t sue your employers because what you thought could/would happen to you happened! Have you ever heard the phrase ‘you play, you pay!’………this is just a different take on that! You pray it doesn’t happen, but you always know it could. Eric Winston in his eloquent speech said……’I know am essentially cutting my life short by playing this game, but it is what I choose to do, and love doing’! Thanks for being a man about MANY things Winston!

  15. Can’t wait until 15 years from now when UFC participants start feeling the effects of being legally pummelled on a regular basis.
    In no way is football, at any level, as brutal as UFC. I suggest that the bleeding hearts take a break from berating football, which is safer now than at any time in history, and start focusing on activities that are far more dangerous.
    At the age of 58, Harry Carson has headaches from time-to-time. That’s awful. Getting old sucks. For ANYONE.

  16. Visit Walter Reed and see how many patients missing limbs or brain function would have opted for the military.

    NFL Football is not near the most dangerous profession, and not even the most dangerous sport. See bull riding, injuries in that sport are not unlike car crash injuries.

    Lumber Jacks, Commercial Fishermen, Coal Miners, Firefighters, Cops, etc. put as much and more on the line for a lot less.

    That being said, the NFL covered up the risks, and went to great pains to do so, very much like big tobacco did regarding the health risks of smoking.

  17. bigbluefan1 says: Oct 8, 2012 11:12 AM

    Harry I have always respected as a player but I have to call BS on this one.

    If your so upset with football why were you at Giant Stadium yesterday doing the pregame show on WFAN.

    I saw you with my own to eyes that were not effected by to many shots to the head.

    Do I think you should be taken care of by the NFLPA yes but please do not talk badly about what you have done very well off for your whole adult life.
    Broadcasting doesn’t require a Hall of Fame playing career on your resume to be successful.

    To the credit of his integrity, Carson has repeatedly stated he will not join the player lawsuits against the NFL. Your post would hold more water if you could point to Carson looking for that handout, but he isn’t. He’s accepting the consequences of his decisions, and simply saying he would have chosen the other fork in the road.

  18. I am HC’s age. I am not a football nut, however I follow and have followed the NFL since my teens. As I see it, head trauma is a relatively new area of concern. We always heard about Jim Otto, Joe Namath Gayle Sayers, Dick Butkus and the many former players who were surely injured, however the injuries we heard and read about so extensively were knee, back, hip, shoulder and other similar injuries. John Unitas had lost virtually all use of his right arm and hand and sued the league. I do not recall head trauma injuries until we all heard about HOF tight end John Mackey. I believe players of Carson’s era and CERTAINLY those before his time when they say they knew about the injury risks, however NOT the brain injuries. These areas simply were not part of the discussion back then.

  19. I am a Giants fan that’s old enough to have lived during his time and was a huge giants and Carson fan. I loved Carson as a player. He was strong passionate and tough. He played the middle, and played it like a man. When many came and went, HC was the only lone defensive player on the Giants to be the starter when they were both horrible cowards on offense and ultimately thereafter became Super Bowl champions. He was a vital Giant who arrived in 1975 and on merit unquestionably “deserved” to be surrounded with the likes of LT and all the other great giant defenseman during his time ( including the deserving ones who never made it like Brad Van Pelt and Gary Reasons etc. plus more than a few others). He was never a loudmouth during his time and he was always a class act in every sense of the word. Later, he was a Parcells guy, he played and that’s it. What he is trying to do today in my opinion is educate people to make the game safer. HC should communicate publicly more his love of the game and he would certainly increase his public appeal. But for anyone who ever saw him play there is no question Harry Carson loves the game of football and his play showed it. God bless you Harry Carson and thanks for those truly truly great Sunday memories that we will both along with the many who were there take to the grave. Harry Carson is a man of conviction and deserves legitimate respect by those who do not know him. Go Gmen!

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