Earl Campbell says Jack Lambert’s words have come to pass

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Only days short of his 58th birthday, Hall of Fame running back Earl Campbell has become a real-life billboard for the wear and tear of a lifetime of football.  Of any former players, then, Campbell should appreciate efforts to make the game safer.

He doesn’t.

Campbell has become the latest current or former ball carrier to complain about the new restriction on the things a player can do while carrying the ball.  He joined CSN Houston to discuss the situation.

“No. 1, I think football is a very physical game, no doubt,” Campbell said.  “And I think we learn that when we’re young.  But I think with the NFL changing that rule it’s not going to be good at all.  I think at some point you gotta say ‘stop’ and let football be football.”

Campbell fears he would have been suspended while playing, if he’d played under the current rules.  “I played football with my whole body,” Campbell said.  “My hands, my head, my face.  I did it all.”

Campbell also pointed to his violent helmet to the gut of Rams linebacker Isaiah Robertson as something Campbell wouldn’t have been allowed to do.

“I know I wouldn’t have lasted,” Campbell said, “because that’s how I play football. . . .  I agree with the legendary Jack Lambert. . . .  He said the quarterback is gonna end up wearing a dress.  And that’s taking away from football.  I did not think I would live long enough to see that happen.  But he’s right.  They keep changing and keep changing.  I think what they ought to do if they really want to change it all up, give guys like we started football in elementary [school], flag football, and everybody will know not to bump into nobody.”

Campbell arguably can blame these developments on his peers who have sued the NFL, if the league’s ongoing changes are truly motivated by avoiding future litigation.  The more accurate interpretation could be that the league is trying to maintain the flow of football players from the pee wee ranks to pro level.

Without efforts to make the game safer, that may be hard to do in an age of advanced medical knowledge and aggressive helicopter parenting.

68 responses to “Earl Campbell says Jack Lambert’s words have come to pass

  1. Campbell was a pure wrecking machine. That kind of football and that kind of player is long gone. I dont know if thats good or bad but I loved watching it. But not as much as Chip Kellys new 11 headed offensive monster machine tour 2013. Thats here to stay. And theres simply nothing you can do about it.

  2. How about instead of these former players criticizing the NFL they look at their peers and criticize them for the lawsuits. It’s because of these lawsuits the NFL is changing. You have an idiot in Dickerson who criticizes the rule change but he’s part of the lawsuit. Talk about dumb. I don’t even think these guys care about the lawsuit, they just want to be compensated. It’s all about money. What do they care. They’re playing days are over. It doesn’t effect them.

  3. Bottom line…….the NFL is not “football” its crap ! like the WWF is not wrestling !!! Roger Goodell is bad for football . He said before this rule was even voted on , ” this WILL pass” …….wat to ruin the league Roger !

  4. I watched Earl in total amazement, and he was the franchise in Houston!
    At his size, speed and agility, he was a smash mouth hit and be hit runner, who played this game, as it ought to be!
    Today, guys like LT & Lambert would be banned!
    Sad truth!

  5. Listen to Earl. One of the greatest running backs to ever PLAY the game. All of these dudes making decisions about the future of football who never PLAYED a down in their life can take it up the two hole and kick rocks.

  6. No touching allowed, pink tutus for the offense, lavender ones for the defense, decaffeinated tea at halftime, no yelling by the coaches, no score kept, and everyone gets a Certificate of Participation.

    As for the line about the QB wearing a dress, I believe it predates the legendary Lambert. IIRC I first read it coming from the late, great Alex Karras.

  7. I was standing on the field sidelines, in the astrodome, during the Monday night game when Earl ran the long touchdown agaist Miami. One of the most memorable moments of football that I have.

    Earl wasn’t in a class by himself, but it sure doesn’t take long to call the role. Earl is not a part of the lawsuit and has publicly stated that he was against it. He is just a sucessful after football as he was when he played.

    Don’t compare Earl with all of the other whiners. He walks the walk.

  8. So sick of simple opinion pieces from reporters\bloggers who never played the sport competitively. When guys like Earl Campbell talk, his words should be listened to. Let Earl and Jim Brown have a debate on this. Monday morning Running Backs need to stay out of it.

  9. flavordave says: Mar 22, 2013 10:41 AM

    Campbell was a pure wrecking machine. That kind of football and that kind of player is long gone. I dont know if thats good or bad but I loved watching it. But not as much as Chip Kellys new 11 headed offensive monster machine tour 2013. Thats here to stay. And theres simply nothing you can do about it.

    What flavor vodka is that you’re sucking, Dave…?

    Philly won’t make the Wild Card in the next few years, and will certainly not top the NFC, not even close. Put down the bottle.

    Chip Kelly = Nick Saban 2.0

  10. Change is never readily accepted. Should clotheslining still be allowed? Head tackels? Cut blocks, spearing and clipping? Drilling a defenceless receiver? All these tactics are acceptable right? Maybe it should just be a free for all! C’mon. Players will learn to adapt. They always do. The big hits will remain. They just won’t be done with the crown of the helmet. Fisher has explained the rule clearly and yet nobody takes the time to listen. Injuries will be prevented. THAT is good for the players. They need the help. They obviously don’t know enough to help themselves.

  11. Campbells run would have been allowed as the collision was within 3 yards from line of scrimmage. the whole point of the rule is to stop that type of hit when the runner and/or defender are going full speed….which isnt such a bad thing. lower your shoulder – don’t use the top of your helmet as a battering ram. its that simple. we should be way more concerned with the protection of QBs

  12. If he really feels this way then he should stop chastising the NFL and start chastising – as loud as possible – old players who are suing the league. The NFL never would have gone to this length if players didn’t make it absolutely clear that they’re happy to collect money while playing and then turn around and sue the league after retirement, claiming that the NFL didn’t do enough to protect them.

    Players can’t have it both ways.

  13. In 10 years the NFL will be less popular than soccer, and we’ll have goodell and bogus lawsuits to thank for it.

  14. This is the direction of the NFL. Limited contact in practice. Limited contact on the field.

    People keep tuning in, and as long as they do they can make as many changes as they see fit.

    Shula in 1970 used to run 4 practices a day in training camp. 2 in pads. Now they can run about one a week. Things change, but not always for the better. Now, it’s all about the money rather then the game itself.

  15. I would hate to see how much all of you over prepared for Y2K back in the day. I’m guessing aluminum foil hats and hangers everywhere to ward off EMP blasts.

    This isn’t the end of the world and Earl Campbell is delusional to think that things don’t change. Everything changes Earl. Incremental changes aren’t bad for the sport.

    This rule might make the playing field a bit more even considering the helmet-to-helmet penalties that were called on defenders as a result of the running back lowering his helmet directly into the oncoming tackler’s helmet. Of course offensive players are whining about this rule change, but the defenders who have had to shell out fines for illegal hits time after time are saying it’s about time.

  16. Instead of the rules changes, we as fans would rather have old school football where running games were not a rarity in the sport we watch today.

    Simple solution that could be drafted up in a few hours. Have the players sign consent that they understand the risks associated with the long term physical and mental toles the game will potentially and likely have for them. Have them sing away their right to sue down the road.

    Then have a message like all physical shows have before all broadcasts: “this event is played by professionals, do not try this at home”.

    Just for safe measure, put warning stickers on all pads/helmets etc like they have on cigarette products.

    Problem solved!

  17. logicalvoicesays says:
    Mar 22, 2013 10:43 AM
    Top 5 RBs in professional Football History – Clinton Portis.
    I agree with LaVar Arrington that Clinton Portis was indeed one of the top cross-dressers in NFL history, second to several other ‘Skins.

  18. The owners are genuinly worried about these lawsuits. Their lawyers must have told them this is a real concern. Everyone is blaming Goddell, but he is only the front man for the owners. The owners are quite happy with the job he is doing, they are the the ones behind these rule changes. They are also worried about the the longevity of their billion dollar business. Worried that parents will prevent their kids from playing football and eventually a shortage of quality players. I don’t see that as a concern. Some parents will prevent their kids from playing but most will let them. I don’t see why players can’t sign waivers agreeing not to sue the league. The league in turn provides better insurance and football remains the game we’ve grown to love. I know any fan would gladly sign the waiver, get paid the money, and play the violent game and take their chances with injuries. We’re just not good enough to be in the league. We don’t hope players get hurt, but if they do, oh well. I don’t like these rule changes, they take away from the game. I also wish the NFL would stop with their riduculous notion of going gloabal. Other than a few geographically close countries it won’t work. Keep football the way it is. A violent, American game. Soccer stinks!!

  19. Take away the hard helmets, and head injuries would PLUMMET.

    No one but a fool would ram their head into something without a weapon sitting on top of their head.

    Go ahead you overcensorous jerks, and remove this post too, I don’t really care. YOU are the dweebs that can’t handle the truth, and therefore refuse to allow it to be said on your crummy, overcensored website.

  20. Didn’t take long for the NE/Brady Hates to spike this lob-ball into the sand.

    Just remember ladies, Brady is only about a billion times tougher than all you internet tough guys typing smack as you sit on your fat overweight arses.


  21. Logical….Portis in the top 5 of all time? Right. That’s why I can’t even give away the limited edition Portis ceramic bobble head I got for x-mas in his second year. Dumbest effin trade EVER by ANY team was when the skins gave up Champ Bailey for Portis…. a running back! HAHAHAHA! Stone Cold Stupid!

  22. This is the thing that the NFL doesn’t get, it will be cheaper to just give these guys lifetime healthcare, even if it is for likely football related injuries. A person wuld not be able to get coverage, or they could pay extra to add to the premium for coverage of let’s say cancer which is not football related, but lifetime healthcare would mean that you wouldn’t have to pay the lawyers to fight.

    Also, possibly create a pension that is workable. Nobody can live off of $500 a month. The league is where it is becasue of the blood, sweat and tears of men like Campbell. Lifetime healthcare and bigger pensions would settle these lawsuits in minutes.

  23. Logicalvoicesays claims the 5 top running backs of all time were Riggins, Campbell, Sanders, Jackson & Portis. I guess he never heard of a guy by the name of Walter Payton, who did it all. And Portis is not in that conversation at any time.

  24. For the life of me, I can’t understand the “let football be football” BS excuse. When football was invented until pretty much the forward pass it was a huge, organized fight. Players regularly got crippled and died. Teddy Roosevelt almost outlawed the game, but didn’t because he played and loved it. So they revamped the rules to stay alive. Now, it’s happening again. Deal with it, because this IS football now.

    I’m not saying I like it, but I can look at it from the league’s perspective and I get it.

  25. Earl Campbell and Jack Lambert are right a lot of people’s are talking the NFL and Owners knows what they pays these guys to do. The NFL and the Owners need to fine better benefits packages for the players on the field and off the field. If the military has benefit package when servicemens and women’s are out because of disabilities the NFL can get it also they makes the money.

  26. I think like most athletes who complain about the rule that the rules trumpeting safety are often over the top and take away from teh game we love; however, they make arguments in a way that does no justice to the real issue at stake.

    First: the specific play referenced and linked, is still legal under the new rule.
    Second: to trumpet these “they’ll be wearing skirts” jargon shows just how out of touch they are. My girlfriend (like more and more women) loves football but is deeply affended by the sexist way in which pundits, pros, and fans associate these rule changes with feminity. They are out of touch with the modern fan who isn’t simply the chauvinistic man fan of the yesteryear. Sure that fan still exists and is very vocal but they are in the minority
    Third: “No. 1, I think football is a very physical game, no doubt,” Campbell said. ”And I think we learn that when we’re young.” But growing up now and growing up then is different because we as a population know the ramifications of the brutality of the sport and we can’t simply ignore what we know now

    I am all for hearing the opinions that are against the rule changes that attempt to make the game “safer” but so often the arguments used are either uneducated, sexist, or simply inaccurate and out of touch. If I were a judge I’d tell Earl Campbell (who I loved watching play and wish so much there were current runners like him) that he and many like him hasn’t made a convincing enough argument.

  27. I’ve always been a Raider fan but Earl was an absolute beast. Nobody wanted to tackle him.
    He was an out of control dump truck plowing through an intersection.
    Loved watching him play.

  28. wludford says:
    Mar 22, 2013 10:52 AM
    Pretty sad but true commentary on the state of NFL football.
    It goes way beyond football, everybody and everything has become soft on this side of the planet.

    Even the food chain is now out of whack, what a mess.

  29. Earl Campbell and Jack Lambert, thank you. It is because of players like you that I love football.

  30. Campbell played during an era in which defenders knew how to tackle.
    Campbell, for example, once had his ribs fractured by Steelers safety Donnie Shell. Think about that for a second. It wasn’t a concussion caused by a launch, nor was it broken ribs caused by a spear into the pile; it was busted ribs caused by a bone-jarring, text-book tackle.
    Today’s players need watch some of the highlights from the ’60s and ’70s. Back in the day, Campbell was far more dangerous and intimidating than any defensive player. He more often than not was one one of the biggest and most powerful players on the field. So was Jim Brown.

  31. Portis and W.Peyton were similar backs but CP never had the luxury of playing w/an even decent QB. CP did everything Peyton could in a smaller body. But yeah, criticising because he wore Burgundy and Gold…no surprise there.

  32. I am a big fan of Campbells, have been my whole life. I respect him, but it sounds like he’s hit his head one too many times!!

    Why anyone would want to intentionally ram their head into an object is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of.

    Cannot understand why a running back would do that. We teach kids from little loop on up NOT to use their heads so what is all this crying about?

  33. lickster35 says:

    In 10 years the NFL will be less popular than soccer, and we’ll have goodell and bogus lawsuits to thank for it.


    Uh, hate to burst the bubble you live in lickster35 but soccer IS the most popular sport in the world; hard for the NFL to be less popular if it never was more popular.

    And to olcap: I’m glad to read that I’m not the only one who is constantly edited out of the comments (then again, you probably won’t be able to read this anyway.)

  34. To say the rule wont effect the game is akin to saying adding salt instead of sugar wont effect the taste of coffee.

    Players like Campbell, Csonka, and Riggins were successful because of their physical style, and defenders simply feared squaring up to tackle them. There’s a reason so many ex-players are against the rule. They understand the physical nature that causes intimidation, and consequence, and reaction of those being intimidated. They also realize lowering the helmet is the best defense a RB has.

    Secondly, not allowing a RB to get low will result in more leg, and knee injuries. The NFL contends they want to bring the shoulder back into the game, but at the speed in which angles change players will still fear committing a foul.

  35. U ppl seem 2 b missing the hidden motive here! The league doesn’t give a damn about the players! These new rules r designed 2 do one thing n one thing only! N thats 2 keep the fines coming. More fines equals more money n the owners pockets! Basically the owners have found a way 2 make more money. NFL is becoming such a joke!

  36. No lawsuits, no rule changes…

    Guys who made no money (and get nothing from their so-called Union) have health issues and they are going to go after the league…

    Goodell didn’t change the rules- the owners did; it’s voted on…I loved Earl Campbell but he should take the issue up with his peers.

  37. logicalvoicesays, I’m as crazy a ‘Skins fan as anyone but, dude, you’re making us all look bad. Take a pill and turn it down. Please.

  38. Too bad no one here knows the definition of irony.

    Jack Lambert’s comment about new league rules ruining football to the point that quarterbacks should wear dresses was made THIRTY FIVE YEARS AGO.

    Did football as we know it dies sometime in the last 35 years? Um…..no, and it won’t now.

    The other ironic thing is that it’s the players that played with Campbell and Lambert who are causing all of this with their lawsuits.

    All of you chicken littles on here clucking about the end of football every time there’s a rule change are worse than weathermen- at least they are right once awhile.

  39. I get that safety is a big concern, but players understand the risk, and take that risk, for millions of dollars. Leave it up to the guys. If they don’t want to endure life-long effects, they won’t play the game. Simple as that. Why don’t we just cancel the game and have a nice tea party instead?

  40. gbr437 says:
    Mar 22, 2013 12:37 PM
    U ppl seem 2 b missing the hidden motive here! The league doesn’t give a damn about the players! These new rules r designed 2 do one thing n one thing only! N thats 2 keep the fines coming. More fines equals more money n the owners pockets! Basically the owners have found a way 2 make more money. NFL is becoming such a joke!

    You do realize that all fine money goes to charity, right?

  41. omikeyboy says:
    Mar 22, 2013 12:35 PM
    To say the rule wont effect the game is akin to saying adding salt instead of sugar wont effect the taste of coffee.

    Secondly, not allowing a RB to get low will result in more leg, and knee injuries. The NFL contends they want to bring the shoulder back into the game, but at the speed in which angles change players will still fear committing a foul.


    you realize that earl campbell spent about the first 10years of his retirement in a wheel chair addicted to pain pills.

  42. Uh, the Cowboys are not worth $4 billion. Your point remains cogent.


    Unless you are a 13 year old girl, you have no excuse for “writing” like that. Embrace the shame and evolve.

  43. Earl Campbell was easily one of the most fun running backs to watch. He was a monster. However, all of those players–particularly all of those former players–complaining about this rule need to look in the mirror when assigning blame. They and/or their peers created this situation. It is incomprehensible for any rational person to believe that any adult would not realize that there could potentially be long-term lingering effects through regular impacts to one’s head. Yet that is what many former players would have us all believe. This rule & all of the other associated rule changes are a direct result of litigants’ quest for more money. The effect may in fact be a watering down of the game; the cause is clearly litigious former players–and future former players.

  44. On cue here come the booger eaters, “waaaaah, curse you Roger Goodell, you’re ruining our game”. Meanwhile, Rog and the evil bosses that tell him what to do count their billions and chuckle violently awaiting those booger eaters’ Sunday Ticket subscriptions and new jersey purchases.

  45. JSpicoli said, “I remember football. I used to love it.”
    Change your name to WShakesphere! That was the best thing I read. Simple and to the point.
    I used to worship and glorify football. Now I hate it.

  46. I also thought Campbell’s health issues were caused by the wear and tear of the game–until watching “Still Standing,” the documentary of his life that appeared on your own NBC Sports Network. Apparently Campbell had inherent debilitating medical issues that were exacerbated by football. It’s a miracle that he was able to play at all. But football alone didn’t cause his health problems. And clearly he understands that.

    Unfortunately, the league has made few genuine efforts to improve safety. Most of Goodell’s measures have been enacted with little or no supporting data. They’re simply attempts to convince the government, litigators, and the public that the game is safe–and, of course, to draw in more casual viewers by ensuring higher scores.

  47. guys like him and lawrence taylor would never make this generations soft football. sad well never see another great dominating LB like LT bec of rules..and ap is the closest well ever get 2 a physical runner bec in 5 years RB wont even be allowed to run anymore

  48. @hatesycophants
    you’re right. there worth about 2bill so a $10k fine is worth going to amount to .0004% of his worth. Point being that even if all the fines went to the owners, and they don’t, it would be a drop in the bucket

  49. I have nothing but the highest respect for Mr. Campbell, and I certainly hold his opinion in high regard. If anyone knows about collisions on the field, he is the man. One poster mentioned that he ” walks the walk.” Actually, at this time in his life, this is not exactly true. He is severely limited in his ambulatory powers, and can barely walk. He had become heavily reliant on strong pain medication and alcohol as well, as he outlined himself. While he surely is the voice of experience, I am afraid he is NOT the voice of reason. Football players are YOUNG MEN when they leave the game, as far as their D.O.B. states, however the age of their bodies tells a different story. If anything, Earl Campbell’s career is a cautionary tale and a stark one at that.

  50. As a Raider fan, I thought one of the best thrills in football was watching Earl Campbell play. It’s a shame the way Bum Philips used him up because he could have had a longer career, even with his punishing style. One of the toughest guys to ever set foot on the field; it’s no wonder he feels this way.

    Thank you, Earl.

  51. 1 out of every 3 Earl Campbell highlight plays is against the Packers. He could take over a game, and he’s got a point.

  52. Goodell is controlled by the owners, who in turn are controlled by the government loy-yahs. Go ahead, dummies; destroy football for the fans. The regime is reliant upon bread and circuses to distract the ‘masses’ from what they’re doing elsewhere; but they just can’t help themselves.
    It’s in their nature.

  53. I think the league has gotten a little ridiculous with rules, for one thing defensive injuries are running rampid because they are tackling at funny angles trying to keep from getting penalized! I have been watching football since the Steel Curtain days and I can’t remember as many injuries as this year, every game is taking forever because of injuries! The length of the game is not what is important, but it’s one way I can tell there’s more injuries. As far as comparing Clinton Portis to Walter Payton is like comparing Mark Sanchez to Payton Manning, arguably the greatest ever WP compared to CP a pretty good running back who I happen to like, but he’s not in Payton’s class of player and I don’t know if anyone is, he was that great. It’s great to cheer on your favorite team or player , but because they wear your color doesn’t make them great. I am a huge Steeler fan and Franco Harris is my all time favorite player, but he wasn’t the caliber of running back that Walter was! Walter Payton was one the greatest blockers ever, one of the greatest runners ever , deadly out of the backfield on pass plays , a terrific passer, and even a field goal kicker in college, probably the best athlete to play on the NFL! Like I said I have always been a Steeler fan and have never had use for the Bears but greatness earns respect and I never knew anyone who didn’t like Walter Payton! And by the way if you would have checked, Payton was also smaller than Portis not bigger!!!

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