Despite his injuries, Earl Campbell misses a more physical NFL

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Earl Campbell is perhaps the greatest football player ever to play in Houston, and with the Super Bowl in Houston this week he’s getting plenty of attention. His views on the current game are a little surprising.

The 61-year-old Campbell suffered plenty of injuries in the NFL. He has had both knees replaced. He has had four back surgeries. He went to an in-patient rehab program for a painkiller addiction. Football took a toll on his body. And yet Campbell thinks today’s NFL isn’t tough enough, and he misses the days when men were men, and they injured each other with brutal hits on concrete-like Astroturf.

“Well, football is not played like it was when I played,” Campbell told USA Today. “It was real football when Jack Tatum and I hit each other on the 2-yard line and I backed into the end zone. And after the game I said, ‘Hey, that’s the best I had,’ and he said, ‘That’s the best I had, too, Campbell.’ I mean, that was real football. But now . . . ”

Now, Campbell says, football players have gone soft, won’t play through injuries the way he did, and seem more interested in staying safe than winning a game.

“I can’t play because I’ve got a hangnail on my toe,” Campbell joked that today’s players say. “I can’t play because I didn’t get a pedicure this week. I don’t play because my head hurt. That wouldn’t have got the job done back in my day.”

The NFL is never going back to the kind of football Campbell prefers. Concerns about brain injuries have ended that style of play in the NFL forever. But Campbell doesn’t like it.

“It’s great that they’re teaching guys about the CTE and the tackling and all that,” he said. “But to play football you’ve got to be pretty physical.”

The game is still physical. Just not as physical as it used to be.

43 responses to “Despite his injuries, Earl Campbell misses a more physical NFL

  1. So do I. It’s no wonder “Taahmy” is so “great.” The NFL just isn’t as hard hitting as it used to be. Take the skirts off and you won’t have to play games in London to make more $$.

  2. Campbell has a point but it’s not just football. Most professional sports have all gone soft. There are no more hard fouls in the NBA. They just let people dunk the ball uncontested.

  3. I was at first amazed at the list of injuries he’s had and then by his comments. It sounds like he may have taken a few too many to the head.

    Today’s players are on a level of size and impact that the old timers can’t understand. It’s like a 12 year old falling 40 times vs an adult. The kid will be fine but the larger man will eventually break something.

    I don’t see the current stars calling out the old guys for their lack of athletism, size and strength so why do these old guys keep talking smack?

  4. It’s still a very physical game and players have gotten bigger, stronger and faster, so they did need to tone it down or else they would run out of healthy players by the middle of the season. Thank goodness astroturf is gone, too, that was just green cement!

  5. “The game is still physical. Just not as physical as it used to be.”
    _________

    What has really changed for running backs? His example was a goal line situation where literally nothing has changed. Only difference is the guys are on average bigger and faster and thus striking each other with more force.

  6. This is a pretty poor opinion on Campbell’s part, with all due respect. First, if players played the game in the same manner as they did in Campbell’s, the NFL would be utterly wracked with injuries (in Campbell’s era, you could weigh 255 LBs and be a HOF offensive lineman, as was the case with Mike Webster…who also was the first person diagnosed with CTE). They are bigger, stronger, and faster today, and it wouldn’t be worth playing the same way given what would result.

    Second, because the overall talent level in the league is so much higher than it used to be, the margin between being the best and being mediocre is smaller than it used to be. That also means that if you suffer a “hangnail” (really, turf toe or something along those lines) and try to play through it, YOU WOULDN’T PLAY WELL. We all love when a guy toughs out pains or even minor injuries and still performs, but while Campbell says that it “wouldn’t have gotten the job done” in his day to take a seat, he completely misses that HE wouldn’t get the job done TODAY if he tried to play through such injuries.

  7. “Well, football is not played like it was when I played,” Campbell told USA Today. “It was real football when Jack Tatum and I hit each other on the 2-yard line and I backed into the end zone. And after the game I said, ‘Hey, that’s the best I had,’ and he said, ‘That’s the best I had, too, Campbell.’ I mean, that was real football. But now . . . ”

    That hit was one for the ages, Campbell was downright woozy when he fell backwards into the end zone.

    Awesome player and an awesome guy.

  8. kcchefs58 says:
    Feb 1, 2017 10:13 AM
    Despite Earl’s desire, the concussion lawsuits happened and the league has been trying to cover its ass.

    _________________________________________

    You are not a hero lady

  9. Football needs to be as physical as the men playing the game want it to be. No more office workers or sports bloggers who’ve never played a down of organized football in their lives spewing their ignorance. Men know the risks involved in football and it’s their choice to do what they wish. Stop getting all upset when former players don’t support your narrative.

  10. orange and blue own the nfl says:
    Feb 1, 2017 10:20 AM
    Brady would never make it in a more physical NFL.

    Why exactly? He constantly gotten up time and time again from getting hit and played with countless injuries that he doesn’t talk about. He’s missed time only due to getting his knee caved in once in his career. You’re statement has no basis and you only typed it because he’s a great player without happening to be your QB.

    Jealousy will get you nowhere.

  11. I was too young to appreciate Earl Campbells game. But after watching his “A Football Life” he’s become one of my favorite players of all time. He was a beast. He’d probably get kicked out of today’s pansy league for lofting DB’s up into the air and slamming them to the turf with one hand. That was his trademark.

  12. Players and ex players should be the only ones who give final approval to any rule changes. The owners should want the responsibility of these rules on the players now more than ever.

  13. orange and blue own the nfl says:
    Feb 1, 2017 10:20 AM
    Brady would never make it in a more physical NFL.
    ___________________________________

    How many games has Brady missed due to injury aside from the acl/mcl tear?

    Zero.

  14. keclanton says:
    Feb 1, 2017 10:58 AM
    orange and blue own the nfl says:
    Feb 1, 2017 10:20 AM
    Brady would never make it in a more physical NFL.

    Why exactly? He constantly gotten up time and time again from getting hit and played with countless injuries that he doesn’t talk about. He’s missed time only due to getting his knee caved in once in his career. You’re statement has no basis and you only typed it because he’s a great player without happening to be your QB.

    Jealousy will get you nowhere.
    ——————————————————————
    The so-called hits he takes now pale in comparison to the 70’s and 80’s. He cries to the ref when a pass rusher falls at his ankles. I can only imagine what would happen if he got picked up and was pile driven to the turf like Bradshaw was against the Browns years ago, and that has happened to countless QBs over and over.

    This has nothing to do with jealousy – it’s just the facts.

  15. Hilarious the fixation by too many that “today’s players are better.”

    ‘They’re bigger, stronger and faster today’… really? Folly.

    Have yet to see any player faster let alone as fast ‘Bullet’ Bob Hayes of 9.1 hundred fame. Big/strong? Ernie Ladd: 6’9 350 give or take DT. Hard-hitter? One name: Butkus. All products of the 1960’s – and all unmatched some 50+ years later.

    A lightweight like NE’s Tom Brady/others cringes at the prospect no official turn to, protect him with a flag, from the likes Butkus or Jack (‘put them in dresses’) Lambert. THAT but one example difference yesteryear’s game to today.

    No, they aren’t better today – they’re coddled. There are MORE of them today: large and swift and strong result PEDS/otherwise medicinally addled creations. Despite such artificial advantage, have failed to match let alone top various sports records set the 20th century, 1900’s.

    Whether Wilt Chamberlain basketball, Babe Ruth or Joe DiMaggio or Cy Young baseball, Dick ‘Night Train’ Lane’ or Paul Krause or Green Bay Packers, Boston Celtics and Montreal Canadians greatest of the greats in yesteryear’s, stellar era, the teams, players and records theirs remain unmatched, and not close to having been exceeded.

    Subjective bias bows at the foot objectivity: as evidenced earlier, players today are no better, and in fact are not as good as players yesteryear many cases. There are MORE players today, and MORE teams, and MORE mediocrity.

    Hundreds more players today would not even be playing, yesteryear – the creme de la creme – less not more teams. Instead, they’d be employed as waiters, deliverymen and other noble occupations, instead playing today’s watered down football 21st century, both in terms over-saturation & the over-emphasis $ – all bow down to it, integrity the game included.

  16. MannamedJay says:
    Feb 1, 2017 10:30 AM

    Earl was such a beast that in todays NFL, he would be the one getting called for unnecessary roughness every time he carried the ball.
    __________________________________

    In fact Larry Csonka was flagged for this. Now there was a football player!

  17. orange and blue own the nfl says:
    Feb 1, 2017 10:20 AM
    Brady would never make it in a more physical NFL.
    ——————–
    I’m guessing you’re a Broncos fan. Well guess what Peyton would not have made it either, he’s not as tough as Brady is now. Peyton would have had his neck snapped before he signed with you guys.

    Brady’s, or any QB’s job isn’t to be physical, so not sure why this even matters, he’s not a linebacker.

  18. Today’s players are probably faster as a whole but not stronger and not more physical. You’d probably see more of the 70’s 80’s and 90’s players that could play in todays game than you’d find players today that could play in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. Today’s guys are too soft and they make too much money to “risk it all and lay everything on the line every single play.” Today’s NFL players are more business men than football players.

    I’m not judging as much as stating my personal observation. But I’d rather watch the football players of the past than the businessmen of today.

  19. Hard to compare apples to oranges.
    Back then, you had a bunch of semi-fit large dudes whacking each other, but it wasn’t at the speed of today’s game. Plus, the equipment (protection) was inferior back then, so you hit as hard as your soft tissue could take it.
    Now, you have monster guys, in tip top shape, with great equipment going at break neck speed. You allow the same hits as before, players will get injured on every play. Look at the number of ACL/MCL/ripped tendons/muscle injuries in today’s game…many caused by the player just over-stressing their own body (making a cut).
    Back then, they definitely hit harder with their heads, but with the CTE disease, the NFL doesn’t want to see their retired players off’ing themselves. Sort of bad for business to know a player will likely have a short life with repeated head trauma.
    Do players have a longer career nowadays than before? Not really…it means injuries or their skill have left them.
    It might have been more scrappy back then, but the skill and finesse take front stage now. Like checkers and chess. The game has evolved.

  20. blkandgld4eva says:
    Feb 1, 2017 12:00 PM

    The so-called hits he takes now pale in comparison to the 70’s and 80’s. He cries to the ref when a pass rusher falls at his ankles
    ———————————————
    Gamesmanship sometimes gets 15 yard penalties. That the rules have changed to protect passers after throwing the ball helps too.

  21. Thank god that Campbell isn’t trying to sue the NFL claiming that he didn’t know playing football would have long term physical effects.

  22. I’m sorry, but I’ve seen Earl Campbell in person on several occasions at autograph signings and things like that. He’s in an electronic wheelchair and looks just completely physically shot. His hands are a swollen mess and shake, and his knees are so bad he hardly ever leaves that chair. He looks completely physically destroyed. Whenever players talk about taking drugs or smoking weed to get through the week, I think of him. He might remember his good old days, but I have no desire to see players look that beat up if it can be avoided. I don’t need people to maim themselves for the rest of their lives just so I can watch a game.

  23. orange and blue own the nfl says:
    Feb 1, 2017 10:20 AM
    Brady would never make it in a more physical NFL.
    ———–

    He cried when the Giants folded him in 2007 and 2011.

    You saw what the Lawrence Taylor, Carl Banks, Lenny Marshall Giants did to QBs. Brady would have been folded.

  24. orange and blue own the nfl says:
    Feb 1, 2017 10:20 AM

    Brady would never make it in a more physical NFL.

    ————–

    Don’t know what THIS article had to do with Brady but he’s taken some pretty brutal hits over the years and has always popped right up. The two that instantly come to mind are the ones delivered by Nate Clements and Elvis Dumervil. Check the tube.

  25. cfos00 says:
    Feb 1, 2017 1:28 PM
    I’m sorry, but I’ve seen Earl Campbell in person on several occasions at autograph signings and things like that. He’s in an electronic wheelchair and looks just completely physically shot. His hands are a swollen mess and shake, and his knees are so bad he hardly ever leaves that chair. He looks completely physically destroyed. Whenever players talk about taking drugs or smoking weed to get through the week, I think of him.
    ———-
    He addressed this in his bio “A Football Life.” Football didn’t do that to him. Drinking did. One of his sons was his inspiration to stop drinking his life away. I applauded his openness. He’s an inspiration for others to follow.

  26. Someone needs to start another pro football league that plays the game the way it was meant to be played. People like Earl Campbell and myself would switch from the NFL in a heartbeat.

  27. orange and blue own the nfl says:
    Feb 1, 2017 10:20 AM
    Brady would never make it in a more physical NFL.

    very few from today would survive in the NFL of the 70s.

    these dinky receivers would get their heads ripped off by Blount , Tatum or Houston…….can you imagine how these QBs of today would be left crying with their faces busted open by the Steel Curtain ,Doomsday or the Purple People Eaters ..?????
    and with these pass happy sissy rules of today what kind of numbers would Staubach ,Bradshaw,Stabler and Tarkington put up ?????…….
    Archie Manning was a far Superior athlete than either of his 2 QB kids ……and he got murdered in the 70s as his kids would have too

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