The NFL’s all-time leader in rushing yards admits he sometimes played when, if he were thinking only of his physical health, he should have stayed on the sideline. But he doesn’t regret it.
Emmitt Smith, who is now 45 years old and a decade removed from his final season, says that he has conflicting feelings because there’s sometimes a conflict between helping your team and protecting your health.
“You do it for the sake of the game. You do it for the sake of your teammates. You do it because it’s your team,” Smith said, via the Standard-Times. “Should you be out there? The answer’s probably not. Would I do it again? Yes, I would. But that’s football. That’s the way I was raised. If you can’t play with pain, you can’t play the game.”
Smith says he’s doing fine now but wonders if he’ll still be doing fine years from now. He also said he thinks NFL teams take player health more seriously today than they did when he was playing.
“Head trauma is one of those things where I don’t think anybody should be playing,” Smith said. “A lot of times I came to the sidelines and smelled some ammonia [to] clear the cobwebs. Today that doesn’t happen. I got knocked out in ’98 on Thanksgiving Day. Thank God it was Thanksgiving Day because I had 10 days to recover. Ten days. Now, they keep you out two weeks.”
Actually, players don’t always get two weeks off after concussions; sometimes a player suffers a concussion one week and plays the next. Usually those players are like Smith, eager to help their team win even if at the cost of their health. Some of those players say years later that they wouldn’t do anything differently. Others come to regret it.