Randle El regrets playing football, says game may disappear


Former NFL wide receiver Antwaan Randle El has regrets about ever playing football and thinks concussions and spinal injuries might lead to the end of the sport.

Randle El spoke to writer Brady McCullough as part of a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette feature, “From 10 to Ben,” and said if he had to do it again, he would not play football.

I would play baseball,” he said. “I got drafted by the Cubs in the 14th round, but I didn’t play baseball because of my parents. They made me go to school. Don’t get me wrong, I love the game of football. But right now, I could still be playing baseball.”

Randle El, 36, said he has trouble walking down stairs and suffers from memory loss.

“I ask my wife things over and over again, and she’s like, ‘I just told you that,'” he said.

Randle El played five seasons with the Steelers and four with the Redskins. He retired after playing with the Steelers in 2010.

He said he believes the game’s violent nature supersedes any safety measures those involved might take.

“It’s a tough pill to swallow because I love the game of football,” he said. “But I tell parents, you can have the right helmet, the perfect pads on, and still end up with a paraplegic kid. There’s no correcting it. There’s no helmet that’s going to correct it. There’s no teaching that’s going to correct it. It just comes down to it’s a physically violent game. Football players are in a car wreck every week.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if football isn’t around in 20, 25 years.”

78 responses to “Randle El regrets playing football, says game may disappear

  1. It’ll be around in 25 years. It might be two-hand touch by then, but it’ll be around.

  2. Lack of interest and participation by the youths of today will hasten the demise. Will lacrosse grown from being a mid Atlantic regional game? Time will tell. I think rugby has a brighter future here, same with hockey.

    Taking away the face mask and bringing back weight limits may be the saving grace

  3. He’s not wrong, if Antonio Brown has his head at a different angle maybe Burflict paralyzes him, if a star get’s hurt like that maybe that’s the straw.

    I don’t think the physicality is going to kill football but the League and Owners will.

  4. As soon as the idea of being paid multiple millions of dollars to play a game 20-24 times a year loses its appeal, the sport will be done.

    The candle that shines twice as bright, burns half as long.

  5. So he thinks all dangerous sports will be outlawed? It’s a choice!
    His regret is he left the Steelers as a great 3rd down back and YOU BLEW IT!

  6. If NASCAR (and even triathlons) has seen deaths in competitions, football won’t go away.

    Except, I am very saddened to hear this about Antwaan.

    It’s shocking that he is going through this but Hines Ward, strangely, is not.

    I only want the best for him and his family now.

  7. This to me seems to be about money. Randle El never got the big payday in the NFL that could set him for life without thinking.

    Baseball players do have longer careers if they are very good but as a 14th round pick who’s to say he would have made a major league roster.

    He can bust out the sour grapes now, but we only have one life and surely he didn’t think this way when he was still playing and getting paid.

    Football may be gone in 25 years but personally I think the woosification of America has more to do with it than recent concussion research. It’s almost as if there is a calculated agenda against being and living like an alpha male.

  8. He chased the money. He could have retired anytime. Heck he says so in his won words, he’d still play baseball. People that choose physically demanding professions usually end up hurting; military, police, fireman, & athletes.

  9. There’s no doubt we’re watching the peak of the NFL in terms of success. And there’s very little doubt there’s a steep crash ahead in the next decade or two.

  10. No, it won’t be the straw. Look up Darryl Stingley – played for the Patriots from 1973 – 1977. Was a star in the making. Was on the verge of signing a contract that would have made him the highest paid receiver in the game. Suffered a spinal cord injury in a pre-season game against Oakland that left him a quadriplegic and led to an early death at age 55. Big stars have already gotten injured like this and the game is still here.


    chicagosportsfan11 says:
    Jan 19, 2016 3:33 PM
    He’s not wrong, if Antonio Brown has his head at a different angle maybe Burflict paralyzes him, if a star get’s hurt like that maybe that’s the straw.

  11. – Players know the risks and that plating will ultimately be bad for their health but they keep playing because they can make lots more money than doing anything else.
    – Owners will be there also because of the money.
    – Sponsors will be there because of the popularity of the game to their potential customers.
    – Fans will be there because of the love of the game.

    Tell me again how and why this game won’t be around in 20, 25 years?

  12. He is spot on! Football in 10 years will either be 2 hand touch or flag or just over with. But us Bills fans know most of our seasons are over with by early November, thus it won’t matter much to us if NFL is still around or not!

  13. a 14th rounder may never see a payday and live in the minors until released by the team, so he’s just talking regrets and not being straight with himself even. It all comes down to never having a major contract.

  14. My heart goes out to you, it really does. But, you knew the risks and you choose the payday for those risks. Assuming you saved money wisely, you should be set for life.

    I hope things get better for you but to say the NFL shouldn’t be around because you took a few too many hard hits is narrow minded and ridiculous.

    I would take the risks too if I had your skills and I know there’s probably a 1 in 10 chance I end up a vegetable at 50. The ability/chance to live a great life is too much to pass up for most people.

  15. You don’t need 2000 people willing to take the risk. You need tens of thousands to populate the peewee, high school and college teams in order to have a pool of players good enough that people will spend hundreds of dollars to watch them. For those of you “willing to take the risk” I say, “and who is clamoring to see you play sports?”

  16. There really should be pre-2010 and post 2010 when speaking about concussons.

    Before 2010, the league did not care about concussons, regardless of what they try to tell us.

    After 2010, that was the turning point in the concusson protocols. The new collective bargaining agreement also eliminated most of 2 a days and most contact practices during the season.

    In 2020, they should do a study about concussons and spinal/neck injuries from 2000 thru 2010 compared to 2010-2020 to truly gauge the safety and long term effects of playing football going forward.

  17. It must be nice to be able to honestly say that you could choose between being a professional at the sport of your choice. Many people work hazardous jobs for just enough money to get by, knowing it will ruin their health, but they have no other choice. If he didn’t have that choice of football or baseball – if football was his only chance at being a pro athlete, or he could work as regular people do, would he still choose football? That’s the real question, imho.

  18. As long as the game is fun to watch on TV, it will be here in one form or another.

    There’s just way too much interest, too much passion, and too much money pulsating through the whole thing.

    You don’t need millions of kids playing pop warner to sustain the NFL, because the TV audience is made up of people who never played a snap.

    As people have noted, you could make changes — weight limits, facemask changes, banning the three-point stance, etc.

    Football players died at a shocking frequency 100 years ago. The game was reformed.

  19. Yeah, most everyone seems to be missing his point with their “risk/reward” comments.
    This does come down to money; as does everything. The only way the players make the money they do is because the NFL is a financial monster. His (probably edited) point is that, in 25 years, what if the money isn’t there anymore?
    Over the next 20-25 years, there will be more incidents on the field as well as off the field that might sway the dollars in another direction.
    If there was a game to replace American Football it would be rugby. Fast paced, hit as hard as you like, never stops…but the rules protect against the unseen hits seen in the NFL.
    I’m interested to see what the Olympics inclusion of rugby has on awareness in the U.S.

  20. mauijim3 says:
    Jan 19, 2016 3:30 PM

    So maybe Mark Cuban was right?


    About what?

  21. Unfortunately, youth football participation is dropping like a rock. Every year more and more Pop Warner teams disappear because parents don’t want their kids getting mangled. Last statistic I saw youth football was down over 25% from 5 years ago. Football is the greatest game in the world. However, due to year round training, unnatural weight gain and speed advancements, players from high school on up have been turned into functioning science experiments.

    The collisions these test tube bodies create are too significant for the human body to absorb. The game as it’s played has simply been overtaken by modern training techniques resulting in highly dangerous, sometimes lethal results. How to fix….sadly, I just don’t know.

  22. I feel bad for the guy, but it’s pretty easy to say you shouldn’t have played football if you’ve convinced yourself you could be a baseball star. The reality is that very few players drafted by MLB ever make it to the majors, let alone have a long career. The more likely outcome would be spending a few years in the minors and then coming up with a real job. Then he would be say, “man, I wish I would have played football.”

  23. suhmonster90 says:
    Jan 19, 2016 3:41 PM
    This to me seems to be about money. Randle El never got the big payday in the NFL that could set him for life without thinking.

    Baseball players do have longer careers if they are very good but as a 14th round pick who’s to say he would have made a major league roster.

    He can bust out the sour grapes now, but we only have one life and surely he didn’t think this way when he was still playing and getting paid.

    Football may be gone in 25 years but personally I think the woosification of America has more to do with it than recent concussion research. It’s almost as if there is a calculated agenda against being and living like an alpha male.

    You’re right, there is. The so called “alpha” male is being replaced by someone who uses their brain to get things done. Just look at private sector jobs of today. It seems to many people took “survival of the fittest” to mean something about physical strength. It doesn’t mean that. In todays world the fittest are the smartest. Its called evolution …

  24. Boxing is still around, but it used to be one of, if not the biggest, sports in America (and the world) some sixty years ago or so.

    All the NFL needs is one Muhammad Ali-type figure, someone highly visible that the sport has obviously ravaged, for people to be uncomfortable watching it. That or maybe a death on the field. When that happens, the money may will start drying up, at which point the talent dries up, too, because people who are athletic enough to play two sports pick the safer and more profitable one.

    It’s all conjecture, but I don’t find it impossible to imagine a future twenty years from now in which the NFL has roughly the same status MLS currently has: around, but not that big a deal.

  25. Nine years ago, when Notre Dame’s two-time All American Wide Receiver, Jeff Samardzija, chose pro baseball over the NFL, I thought he had made a serious mistake. Boy, was I wrong. He’s made an incredible amount of money and he’s still going strong in his early thirties.

  26. whodey83 says:
    Jan 19, 2016 4:00 PM
    It’s really easy to say that after you’ve made millions doing it.

    Well, there’s an old saying, “With age comes wisdom”. When you’re young, you think you know it all and are at your physical peak where you can run like the wind and get a thrill from all the hits. When you’re a little older and have time to reflect on all the things you did during your younger years, you think how your life would be different if certain choices were made. The fact that he can’t remember things and is physically in pain only in his mid 30s, his reflection is only natural.

    Baseball and soccer will be the biggest recipients of the next few generations of athletes. Soccer is growing more and more in this country. More money is being poured in which will only serve to attract the players. It’s the most popular sport in the world.

  27. Modern day gladiators.

    Even with a clown like Goodell at the helm, the NFL seems to break the record for number of viewers every year. It’s a money machine and until people stop tuning in or showing up to games, it’s not going anywhere.

    “Are you not entertained!?!”

  28. suhmonster90 says:
    Jan 19, 2016 3:41 PM
    This to me seems to be about money. Randle El never got the big payday in the NFL that could set him for life without thinking.

    I thought he got his payday by signing with the SKINS.

  29. Youth football numbers are down, way down. Local and regionally. Some towns are looking to combine, or just aren’t fielding teams at levels that used to be jammed.

    Owners are banking what they can now. Its only a matter of time(many a couple years), but you will see the folding of youth football as it is today.

  30. If more fans played the game at the violent level it gets played in the NFL, there’d be few fans to watch it.

  31. Football may be gone in 25 years but personally I think the woosification of America has more to do with it than recent concussion research. It’s almost as if there is a calculated agenda against being and living like an alpha male.
    I’d personally argue it’s more “alpha” to sacrifice a macho agenda in order to be there for your family and kids/avoid early onset dementia. At the end of the day, the choice you’re making for your family, not yourself, is the most alpha thing you can do. Just my 2 cents.

  32. He’s not suggesting football will be banned. The reality is that parents have already started pulling their kids out of football because they’re concerned about head injuries. I hear more about deaths and crippling injuries at the high-school level than at the pro level–and so do parents of the players.

    Yes, the poorer a kid is, the more likely the family will take the risk. And as much as I love the game, I’m uncomfortable with the idea of that it could become a bloodsport played only by people with no other options for a better life. It’s not far from that now.

    I’m sad to hear Randle El’s regrets–which likely have nothing to do with money since the lawsuits have largely been settled. He gave me a lot of enjoyment as a Steeler. But none of us should be under any illusions about the price players have always paid for our entertainment.

  33. As long as the fans are willing to pay, the nfl will continue to put out a product on the field, there’s way to much money in this business nfl isn’t going any where.

  34. There HAS been a death on the field. It was televised and I saw the game.

    On October 24, 1971, the Lions were hosting the Chicago Bears at Tiger Stadium. Late in the game, with Detroit trailing 28-23, the Lions were driving into Chicago territory and Chuck Hughes, who entered the game as an injury replacement, caught a pass from Greg Landry for thirty-two yards and a first down at the Bears’ 37-yard line.

    Three plays later, Landry threw a pass that tight end Charlie Sanders dropped near the end zone. Hughes, a decoy on the play, began running back to the huddle with 1:02 showing on the clock. Suddenly, he dropped to the turf clutching his chest around the 20-yard line. Hughes collapsed near Bears linebacker Dick Butkus, who saw him begin to convulse violently on the field. Realizing what was going on, Butkus motioned to the sideline frantically to get Hughes assistance.

    Both teams’ doctors and trainers, along with a physician who happened to be attending the game, ran to Hughes to try and save him. An ambulance was called for and arrived to take Hughes to Henry Ford Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 5:34 pm that afternoon.

  35. I agree…. I played 14 years and a proud member of a HOF… The violence and long term effects are devastating. Salaries, costs and lawsuits will be the end as we see it today

  36. Don’t dismiss his MLB drafting just because it was the 14th round, a couple of things to consider. He was drafted out of high school in the 14th of 92 rounds. Statistically, high school draftees have more success than college draftees because ball clubs pick the cream of the crop at that level. Twice as many MLB MVPs were drafted out of high school than college. Second, a lot of great MLB players were drafted after him in the same draft, including David Eckstein, Johnny Estrada, and Orlando Hudson, all All-Stars. Hudson was drafted in the 43rd round. We’ll never know what kind of MLB career he would have had, but dismissing any chance of a career just because of his draft position is a mistake.

  37. Does football have a certain amount of risk? Of course, and so does everything else you do every day.

    Football is far more safe than a lot of things you could be doing. Way more people are seriously injured or killed racing motocross than playing football. I personally have one friend who died on a dirtbike (and had 7 previous concussions), one friend who died on an ATV, and another who is paralyzed from a snowmobile. Football is cupcake in the grand scheme of things.

    Only one professional football player has ever died on the field (Chuck Hughes in 1971) and that was from a health condition, not a hit.

    Likewise, only one professional baseball player has died on the field. Ray Chapmen in 1920. Cause of death? Hit by a pitch. A handful of little league players are killed each year, typically from heart failure as a result of taking a baseball to the chest. From flying bats to pitchers hit by line drives, baseball isn’t exactly safe either.

    Guess how many professional cricket players have died on the field? Eleven. That’s right.

    Many professions are way more dangerous….loggers, fishers, roofers, truck drivers….even garbage men. But football is just entertainment and not a real job you say? You should see the list of actors that have been hurt and killed filming movies.

    Until we figure out how to respawn like in a video game, everything will have a certain amount or risk associated with it. Football is no different and is far safer than some people make it out to be.

  38. mortongrover says:

    There HAS been a death on the field.
    True, but Chuck Hughes died of a massive heart attack caused by an undiagnosed genetic heart defect. His death had nothing to with the game.

  39. He’s telling nothing but truth. We’re addicted to this game but much like our grandparents were addicted to baseball, its peak has already past. I already don’t enjoy the game the same now because not only is the product watered down but the overexposure of it has led to overkill. It will always be popular to an extend and will stay around, so I don’t agree with him about that, but I do see it coming back down to earth as the next 30 or 40 years go on.

  40. spiffybiff says:

    Lack of interest and participation by the youths of today will hasten the demise.

    No, it just means most players will come out of red states.

  41. I can’t seem to ever remember where I left my keys and I’m only 42. I blame the three years I played football in high school.

  42. ebdug says:
    Jan 19, 2016 4:19 PM

    I think I once got drafted in the 14 round as part of a baseball fan promo.
    Not likely. The MLB draft is now 40 rounds, plus compensatory picks. It used to be longer, and there are plenty of good players, including Hall-of-Famers, that have been selected far lower than 14th.

  43. Today, a guy who hit .251 with 26 HRs last year just got $132M guaranteed over the next six years.

    He won’t have memory problems by the age of 45.

    He won’t have mangled knees he can barely walk on at 50 unless he has one of the few nasty injuries baseball will see this year.

    And when this contract ends, he’ll be 34 and unless he really stinks, can probably squeeze out 3-4 more years at a few million a year.

    Why would anyone choose football?

  44. Football will always be around…. because of money. The players will keep chasing the millions and the fans will keep paying to watch the game they love. They are modern day Gladiators.

  45. I watch football less and less as I get older, because I see the unnecessary hits and targeting,etc and it is hard to understand why a human would do that to another human? I am 50 and I have some problems that are definitely from playing football in High School – forgetfulness, back and knee surgeries, creaky neck, and I was definitely concussed a few times. What can you do? For starters my son will never play tackle football!

  46. As soon as researchers discover a blood test for CTE, football will be over. Every single player will get the test and discover that their lives are basically over at 25 or 30 years old and all that will be left to play football will be prisoners and high school drop outs.

  47. “Make ALL players Sign a waiver… sign or don’t play. Problem solved.”
    What a silly concept. Besides the dubious legality of requiring the signing away of your right to health, it falls apart as soon as a star player, especially one who has great possibilities in another sport, says remove the waiver or I’m gone.
    It sounds like you missed your calling as a coal mine owner.

  48. Give them leather helmets like the old days. Hitting will drop to nothing and it will go back to good ole tackle football. Problem solved.

  49. Boxing also is not as big as it used to be.

    Sport and violence are not necessarily interconnected.

  50. If I had to play for Dr. Ryzde’s team, I’d regret it, too.

  51. When I saw 14th round, I also thought the chances of him making (and still being) in the majors was a long shot. However, he may have been drafted (out of high school) that late due to his preference to football.

    The MLB clubs may have known he was definitely going to go to school to play football (he said his parents made him go for schooling), so it dropped his draft stock. The Cubs may have just taken a flyer on him in the 14th round on the hopes they could talk him out of football and college…and to retain his rights should he change his mind.

  52. I am not discounting that the NFL is violent, but I am only a couple of years older than Randle El, never played a down of football in my life, yet I too have a hard time walking down stairs or remember a damn thing my wife ever says. Its called arthritis and not listening!

  53. NFL won’t ever disappear = $$$$$$ It’s a cash cow. I would love to see the billionaire owners struggle a bit though. ha ha

  54. “El signed a seven-year deal with the Washington Redskins, worth $31 million”

    I’d say he got his payday! 31 million is enough to NEVER EVEN THINK ABOUT WORKING AGAIN, IF YOU PLAYED YOUR CARDS RIGHT!

  55. Most players don’t end up with any issues at all. I think the amount of time a player plays is more of a factor than anything. Limit years of pro eligibility and set limits on head injuries. 3 years (or however many years it is where we see players develop problems) or 3 concussions, whichever comes first. That is how the problem will be solved. That along with kicking dirty players out of the pro level. 3 strikes (hits to the head on purpose) and you are done.

  56. Pro football simply CAN’T continue on it’s current progression. At this rate we’re going to start seeing 300 pound DBs and 400 pound linemen in the next decade and no amount of helmet shaping, body padding, etc. is going to save you from more severe injuries when guys this size violently crash into each other. I expect to see weight restrictions in the next 5 years or so.

  57. He may have gone higher had he not had the football option. Teams probably stayed away so they wouldn’t waste a high round draft pick on a guy who had the option of playing football on Sundays.

  58. I’m 42, haven’t played football since high school, and my short term memory isn’t great. My point is that his forgetfulness MAY be related to concussions, or it MAY NOT.
    Randle-El’s career started recently enough that he was fully aware of the risk of playing football. I bet he was fine with the paychecks. You know the risks, you decide if you want to make great money, then be financially set for life (although some of these guys blow their $), or you can do the “safe” thing and work 8-5 like the rest of us.
    There are a lot of retired NBA players with knee & joint issues. I don’t hear any of them saying they wish they’d never played.

  59. I don’t hear the dude blaming football. He acknowledges that he made the choice to play. He’s just saying that if he had it to do over again he’d make a different choice. Nothing wrong with contemplating your life’s choices and having some perspective. It’s a normal, human thing to do. So sick of people screaming about how tough they are and how soft everyone else is. Most of the lard butts on this site couldn’t make it through one NFL practice, let alone 9 seasons. Stop trying to be internet tough guy and try listening, COMPREHENDING what’s actually being said before you spew off your fat mouth.

  60. I wouldn’t be surprised if football isn’t around in 20, 25 years.” It couldn’t come soon enough. Parents are going to wise up and not allow their kids to play. My mom refused to let me play because of the injury thing, and that was many years ago. Thanks Mom. The talent pool is eventually going to dry up.

  61. Nascar makes all the drivers sign waivers before driving the cars… they crash and they know the risks involved. Same goes for boxing so why not the NFL?

  62. I also think his comments sound like sour grapes. But I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility to see weight limits like in wrestling, and better safety equipment available. And maybe age restrictions or weight restrictions for certain age groups. Have kids start playing in 8th or 9th grade if they are interested. What is always stated is something is the most safe after a major disaster or a culmination of events that lead up to change. Football will be around in 50 years. It might resemble rugby or Australian rules football but it will be around. Why is there no outrage over big hits in hockey or lacrosse? Like other posters have stated, dirt biking/motorcross has a big following and there are deaths involved in it. X Games involving snowboarding and skateboarding are wildly popular and there are deaths involved with those too. Football needs to be tougher in enforcing the rules to head hunters, then the mentality will change.

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