Jack Youngblood thinks players should play through injuries

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Jack Youngblood, the Hall of Fame defensive end for the Rams who famously played in the Super Bowl with a fractured fibula, thinks today’s players are getting soft.

Asked by the New York Post what he would say to Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who is nursing back and shoulder injuries, Youngblood answered, “Go play. It’s not about you. It’s about your football team.”

When Youngblood was asked if he would understand why Pierre-Paul might want to sit out and let himself get healthy, he said he couldn’t grasp that.

“No,” Youngblood said. “I would not understand, because I’d want to see him go try.”

Youngblood believes teammates should pressure each other to play through injuries.

“If I was on his team, I’d try to convince him to look at it from my perspective, because we would be on equal ground,” Youngblood said. “I want him on the field at 75 percent to see if he can play.”

The culture of football has changed since 1980, when Youngblood was universally praised for playing through a broken leg in Super Bowl XIV. Youngblood later wrote an autobiography that he titled, Because It Was Sunday, using his standard answer to the question of why he played with a broken leg. Now a lot of people would say Youngblood is crazy, including many players who have come to decide that their long-term health is more important than Sunday’s game.

58 responses to “Jack Youngblood thinks players should play through injuries

  1. Idiotic statement. I get where he’s coming from but risking your health and life over a game controlled by billionaires who won’t give a damn about you when you’ve used up your worth is stupid.

  2. Today’s players don’t care about long term health. They play with broken bones, hide concussions, magically heal like Cutler did (diagnosed at 4 weeks out, played a week later). Harvin was supposed to miss the year and now practicing, same w/ there 49’ers WR & his achilles tear. Last year Suggs came back after 6-7 months from shredding his acl/mcl.

    Everyone saw what happened to A Smith last year. Got concussed & lost his job, then shipped out of town. Today’s players like that of every decade will deny/hide/cover up injuries to keep playing & for todays keep getting paid.

  3. In the old days guys played for a living. Kind I’d like Russel Crow in the boxing movie, he was fighting to feed his family. Now guys play to feed their ego and posse. It’s sad, but I pay for tickets and watch it religiously do I’m only fueling that fire.

    Go Chiefs!

  4. “Go play. It’s not about you. It’s about your football team.”

    Man, I miss those days, every generation gets softer and softer.

  5. Mustafa: Hello, out there! Is the movie over? I’m still down here, and I’m still in quite a lot of pain. Maybe someone in the lobby could call an ambulance. Oh! The pain is really quite severe. I fashioned a makeshift splint. Here goes nothing!
    [the splint snaps; Mustafa screams and hits the ground]

  6. There was a time when football players played because they loved playing football.. on Sunday when it was ‘hey, you wanna play football?” the answer was always ‘YES” .. and yes, some guys played through pain (Favre) some guys amputated body parts (Lott) and at the end of the day they were alive that Sunday.

  7. Logan Mankins recently played nearly an entire season with a torn ACL. Some players are tough, some are really tough, and some border on insane. I suppose everyone’s pain threshold is different. Obviously the nature of the specific injury and the position played are important factors.

    My takeaway from Youngblood’s statement is, however, less about players being softer today, and more about players putting themselves before the team. I think he’s right, at least with respect to that aspect of his statement.

  8. I’m trying to view this from both sides but I look at guys who played through injuries and concussions like Mike Webster, Junior Seau, Dave Duerson, and I almost want to side with the players today being cautious.

  9. I heard after the Super Bowl he ran a marathon on his way to the hospital.

    I wonder what Ronnie Lott’s finger thinks about sitting out on Sunday until your ouchies go away?

  10. We are witnessing the ME generation come aboard, these guys make a fortune to play already & need to just get on the field.

    Byrd on Buffalo is a prime example of the ME generation. The dude as for #1 money at his position, holds out all camp & then signs a tender while showing up injured at the last second. Then he doesn’t hit the field for weeks at a time while earning more in one week than most of these guys made in a career.

    I think the whole league needs to go to a pay based on performance scale & if you can’t play there’s no pay. You watch how many players sit out nursing their injuries then, basically none.

  11. Whatever. I’m sure this story will go over well with all the wannabe tough guys who call themselves fans.

    But real football fans know that it’s not about long term health. It’s about helping your team. If you aren’t completely healthy, then you run the risk of hurting your team.

    This ain’t high school, with a bunch of kids trying to prove how tough they are, it’s the pros. Its all about winning.

  12. Most of you don’t know this and neither did Youngblood, but he had a few concussions that year, so even he didn’t know he had a broken leg during the SB.

    But seriously, your long term health is more important than the game itself. Maybe in the old days they were tougher and more stupid.

    But I think today’s players are smarter and wiser. Don’t risk your long term career and life over a major injury. It’s not worth it.

  13. If I’m a player who is injured to the point of being a liability and insist on playing anyway, it’s not about the team, it’s about me.

  14. Who helps the team more — the starter who is limping around at 60-70% or the backup going full speed at 90-100%? It’s usually the backup. Playing smartly is what really helps your team, Jack.

  15. Maybe injured players sitting out have the team’s best interests at heart…because a guy who is playing with an injury is probably not as effective as a lesser player who is healthy. Maybe back in the day, the difference in talent was more extreme and it made sense for a star to play hurt….today, I doubt it…unless it is Calvin Johnson.

  16. I’m with jack. I go to work everyday there is work, sick, hurt, or injured. I do it because my pops is a baby boomer, one of the few vertebras in the back bone of the planet that are left, and when he and all the other hard honest workers from his era are gone from here, we will have nothing but PC, fat, lazy, over opinionated, wait for somebody to do it for you, reality tv watching, social media dependent, characterless tools.

  17. So why isn’t anyone ripping the NFLPA? They’re the one’s who forced into the CBA less padded practices. And that’s what’s helped lead to more injuries, players bodies aren’t as prepared for hard contact and it shows.

  18. If the contracts were guaranteed, then maybe. But not in the era of, “Give your all, play hurt, and then get cut the following year because you made your injury worse by playing on it.” No, that doesn’t fly. Youngblood played on a broken leg. That’s great. But that was a different era. It is totally crazy that the most dangerous of sports doesn’t have guanateed contracts when they have them in hockey and they don’t even have a real network to play on.

  19. “bennyb82 says:
    Nov 15, 2013 10:52 AM
    Maybe injured players sitting out have the team’s best interests at heart…because a guy who is playing with an injury is probably not as effective as a lesser player who is healthy. Maybe back in the day, the difference in talent was more extreme and it made sense for a star to play hurt….today, I doubt it…unless it is Calvin Johnson.”
    Tell that to someone like Brett Favre. Believe me, back in those days, the talent was much better as it was the best against the best when there were only half the teams . The NFL expansion (just like baseball and any other sport) has become so watered down of talent.

  20. The real problem with this guys statement is with the litigious nature of these times. The league HAS to take a position which will at least appear to contradict what Youngblood is saying to protect itself legally. Just look at the lawsuit regarding concussions…

  21. He actually brings up a pretty important point which speaks to the heart of playing the game at every level.

    Although his choices/tolerances are probably on the extreme side, its definitely a line to walk as a football player. Its goes with the territory of playing football to play through the dinks, bruises & injuries in order to rise to the occasion for your team and if you think it isn’t you probably shouldn’t be a participant.

    Its definately not one size fits all as each player’s tolerance level is different to the nature of the injury where each player has to determine where that line is to walk to safeguard his future vs stepping up for the team!!!

  22. Dude took one too many hits to the head picking on the wrong player. JPP hasn’t missed a single game in his career despite playing the entire 2012 season with a back needing surgery and now likely a torn shoulder.

  23. Naughtius Maximus, in a fight against the Lions in the Roman Coliseum, kept on hacking away even though his entire leg had been chewed off. Bunch of pansies today.

    Seriously….really? While I admire Youngblood’s tenacity, if the game isn’t the Super Bowl, if it’s week two, does he take it off and let himself heal before returning? I’m thinking the answer would have been yes. In the SB, there is literally no tomorrow – injure it worse, you have the whole offseason to recover. That’s not the same if it’s early in the year.

    I look at the situation in Seattle the past eight weeks – would they have been better off with Okung at 70% than a healthy Paul McQuistan attempting to play left tackle? Debatable….but one thing that isn’t is that Okung’s foot would not have healed at all, and he wouldn’t be nearly as healthy as he will be this weekend when he returns.

    Yeah, some players will shirk, and some situations like the playoffs may demand a little more pain tolerance to be displayed than others, but to state that all hurt players need to suck it up and get on the field is nothing short of asinine.

  24. “…magically heal like Cutler did (diagnosed at 4 weeks out, played a week later).”


    We get your point, but Cutler didn’t play until three weeks later, not one week.

    One week could be considered magical. Two weeks, enchanting, maybe. Three weeks? I don’t know, “remarkable”?

  25. joetoronto says: Nov 15, 2013 10:30 AM

    “Go play. It’s not about you. It’s about your football team.”

    Man, I miss those days, every generation gets softer and softer.
    “Every generation gets softer and softer.”

    Must be nice to sit on your couch telling others, who are injured, to suck it up, risk further injury, for your personal enjoyment.

  26. It isn’t always about risk, either. The talent level is higher today across the board. Back in the day, an injured Jack Youngblood was still better and more effective than the slappy coming in to replace him. A superstar with an injury nowadays is no better than the healthy journeyman who’s lined up to replace him. So a smart team will sit a guy with an injury because he’s no good to you until he’s healthy.

    It’s rarely the guy just being a wuss.

  27. And that same mentality is what lead to the NFL concussion problem. I certainly would guess Mr. Youngblood was not involved in that lawsuit. If he would pressure a teammate to get back in after seeing stars or blacking out, they should be suing him.

  28. The motivation in earlier years was football. Today, it’s money. They make so much money now that some of these guys may not want to push themselves when they’re already set for life.

    But in all honestly, if the guy wants to sit, then sit. Jack, or anybody else, doesn’t know JPP’s body or tolerance levels. Everyone is different. Also, THIS IS NOT THE MILITARY. THIS IS NOT A WAR. THIS IS A GAME. If he was complaining about his back on the front lines, where life and death decision are a real thing, then you can tell him to suck it up. Otherwise, leave him alone.

  29. Jack Youngblood was old school before old school existed. Much respect for him and other tough players who made football the most popular sport in America.

  30. Before armchair football players start bashing today’s players as soft, they should take into consideration several factors. Today’s players DO work harder. They workout year round as opposed to the guys in the past who used training camp to get in shape. Today’s players are much bigger and faster due to the better workouts which lead to more injuries. Guys from the past can barely walk today and/or have major mental issues from “getting your bell rung”. Is it smart today to keep playing? No.

  31. I called in sick today with a head cold. Do you think I’m soft? Who cares? I’m getting paid to sit in my recliner with a blanket over me, sip tea, and surf the internet. I think I’ll take a nap now.

  32. Every old man thinks the young have it easy and are getting soft. That’s been true since the beginning of time. Cicero bemoaned the same problem back in the glory days of Rome.

    The simple fact is that nothing changes except the memories of the old. Their exploits and conquests become exagerated, and their faults and weaknesses forgotten.

    The simple fact is that if this old white guy played against today’s athletes, he wouldn’t have been able to play with a broken leg. Some player like Incognito would know his leg was messed up and end his career with a cut block.

    Someone needs to remind Youngblood that offensive linemen were, on average, about 50 pounds lighter when he played. It’s not the same game anymore, old man. You’d get killed out there.

  33. Wouldn’t want to argue with Jack on this one.

    I remember watching that Super Bowl, and thinking that his leg was going to snap every time he got blocked. Youngblood played that game like he played every game, with guts and gusto.

  34. briang123 says:
    Nov 15, 2013 1:10 PM
    Other than playing in the Super Bowl with a broken leg, what did he ever do to play through injuries.
    Let’s see. He played 14 years without missing a game.

  35. I kind of agree with Youngblood, depending on the injury.

    If it’s just pain, play through it. If it’s something that could become permanently damaged or prevent you from being better than your backup, you have to sit.

  36. I admire Jack Youngblood for playing through injuries in the Super Bowl. An example of an era that’s sadly gone.

    But the ULTIMATE warrior was Jim Otto. He was a true iron-man and never missed a game in his 15 year career at center – when O-linemen couldn’t hold like they do today. Double-O paid a heavy price (countless post-career operations, leg amputation) but he’s said he doesn’t regret a thing about his career and would do it all again.

  37. He didn’t play just one game with a broken leg, he played two. It was broken in the Divisional Playoff against Dallas. He played in the NFC Championship Game and Super Bowl on one good leg following the injury.

  38. This guy couldn’t handle today’s football. Bigger, faster, stronger. I’d rather see a healthy back up play over my injured starter. No reason to risk further injury. That’s helping your team.

  39. One season when the Rams were playing the Steelers and Cowboys on successive Sundays, Youngblood was asked the difference in how they play the teams. His answer was classic, “we wear metal cups for Pittsburgh, plastic cups for the Cowboys.”

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