Rodney Harrison urges players to speak up when they have head injuries

USA TODAY Sports

Rodney Harrison played his entire career before the NFL had its concussion epiphany in October 2009. For 15 seasons with the Chargers and Patriots, Rodney played without fear. He played without regard to his health and well-being. Now, with the benefit of age and wisdom and in light of his own experiences, Rodney had some strong advice on Sunday night for current players who may be tempted to ignore head injuries in order to keep playing.

“Number one, I would say, it’s not worth it,” Harrison said during Football Night in America. “I was that guy. I would get hit, the entire stadium is spinning around, and I would go back into the game. It’s not worth it. I would implore these young men, don’t go back on that football field if you get hurt because I don’t want them to feel like me and so many other former players that had to deal with concussions, whether it’s depression, anxiety, paranoia, broken relationships, not being able to communicate with your spouse, things like that. CTE takes you to a dark place, and I want these players to know it’s not worth it. Please take care of yourself. Don’t depend on the NFL. Don’t depend on anybody. If something’s wrong with your head, report it.”

Former NFL head coach Tony Dungy, who played defensive back in the 1970s, agreed wholeheartedly.

“Your advice is good and it’s true, but we understand that most of the players are like you when you were young,” Dungy said. “They want to play. So those safeguards have to be in place, and they were in place. My last few years of coaching, I had so many guys come to me and say, ‘Coach, I feel good, but they’re not allowing me to play.’ That is the right thing to do. That’s the way it should be. No one wants to send someone out there who is not healthy and is not ready to go, but we can’t rely on the player to tell them. We’ve got to rely on those tests. We’ve got to rely on the neurological findings. That needs to be done.”

At a time when the NFL and NFL Players Association continue to work to improve the concussion protocol to protect players, the simple truth is that, for many players, they have to be protected from themselves.

“Nobody’s going to think you’re soft or weak or anything like that if you’re reporting,” Harrison said. “So, please, I’ll tell you again, please report it if something’s wrong with your head because life after football is serious. Five, 10, 15, 20 years from now, you’re going to feel the effects of CTE.”

The problem, as noted by Maria Taylor, is the fact that players fear, if they step aside, someone else will step in and step up and the player who tapped out will be on the outside looking in.

“It’s a culture of next man up,” Taylor said. “Is someone else going to take my spot? And that fear of being out and being held out will keep you from reporting, but at the same time, those guardrails have to be in place, they have to be monitored, and it really has to be executed perfectly.”

At the end of the day, there’s no way to compel a player to raise his hand when he’s not feeling right, because there’s no way to guarantee that his absence won’t result in someone else taking his job. This makes it even more important that the doctors and spotters and anyone and everyone is looking for anything that would suggest a player possibly has suffered a head injury he may be trying to hide.

It also makes it more important that the doctors intervene when, as we all saw eight days ago with Tua Tagovailoa, a player had no business re-entering the game, regardless of whether he had a head injury or a back injury.

27 responses to “Rodney Harrison urges players to speak up when they have head injuries

  1. The NFL needs to get past its current culture of disregarding injured players, labeling them as “injury prone” and urging players to play while injured in order to keep their jobs.

    In the old days coaches wouldn’t allow players to drink water during practices to “toughen them up”. That retrograde thinking has gone by the wayside, but there are still plenty of dumb things that pervade the culture that are anti player safety.

  2. There are no indications that the independent doctor violated the protocol. You don’t like what happened, collectively bargain a change like they did. The NFL’s responsibility is to look out for their own interests-in this case, to not get sued again. It’s the players responsibility look out for their own interests. Tell players to not hide or lie about their own injuries. I’ve seen players hide injuries in all sports.

  3. I swear, this is the most overblown issue in sports I have ever seen. I’ve hit my head on cement, floors, basketball courts and countless other not soft things without wearing a helmet. And before you even go there, I don’t want to hear, that explains some of my posts. Now Congress is involved? Why not shut down boxing, MMA or wrestling. People downright die in these sports.

  4. Teammates need to speak up for each other as well. An injured player should be put in the position of being the lone voice about sitting out until healthy. Players are quick to talk about the “team,” so the team (as in teammates) needs to support the guy with the head injury. Vince Lombardi said, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” (Actually, he was not the first to say that) That was then, this is now.

  5. I’m with Rodney, and I’m blaming Tua for this entire debacle. YOU are responsible for your well-being not some team doctor. If you’re gonna LIE about what aches and what doesn’t then how can anyone else be expected to help you

  6. It is easy to give the advice now. I mean he still has a active job and making a living off football. If he would have done taken his own advice back then I venture to say he would not be where he is today.

  7. players from Alabama particularly, coach Saban encourages (expects) players to play hurt.

  8. The irony…. Harrison, arguably the biggest cheap shot player in league history, talking about health. Any comments from Burflict?

  9. nite2al says:
    October 3, 2022 at 10:08 am

    Why not shut down boxing, MMA or wrestling. People downright die in these sports.
    —————-
    Or maybe use the same rules. If you can’t get up by the count of 10, or an opposing player pins you, you are done for the day…

  10. This head injury issue is about as complex across the board as anything can be – and therein lies the tale. I am unsure of just how finite the medical evaluation of head injuries currently is, but if it is totally on its game, that’s solely where the onus should lie. Do not rely on these kids to take themselves out of competing. Do not. Place the weight strictly on the science. Please.

  11. Harrison should know, one of the best head hunters in NFL history.
    His hits to the neck and head changed the rules.

  12. NFL only cares about ratings, coaches and owners need star players to keep from getting canned and to drive ratings so neither care about injuries that don’t physically keep the player from playing (ie broken bone). Non-star players sit-out they are quickly replaced (NFL not for long) so no way they are willing to let someone else on the field. Ditto for college except change owners to administrators and non-star players lose their scholarship and are kicked out of school. Until that paradigm changes concussions are a non-issue until someone is killed on national TV then Congress will step-in…

    Eventually under 18 contact sports will be phased out as schools (and some colleges) and little leagues won’t be able to afford the insurance costs and more scenes like Tua will prevent parents from letting their kids play any contact sports.

  13. Well in MMA and boxing they have referees (if they’re good) that will stop a match when they see the fighter is basically out on his or her feet. That’s pretty much what Tua was against the Bills. He could not continue and had to leave the game. Even fell to the ground trying to walk off the field and it wasn’t any back injury.

    Does anyone really believe that under the same circumstances that they would have sent a less important Dolphin back into that game regardless of what was said by the people that should have protected Tua?

  14. I got pulled from a game before. I was sure I was fine and furious when the decision got made. I spent the rest if the game still feeling fine and pacing up and down the sidelines with my mad on over it. Even told the coach quite directly how ridiculous I thought he was being. After getting showered and cleaned up and attending the post game meeting I drove myself home, all feeling just fine. That night I was in my kitchen and turned to walk to the fridge and was suddenly on the floor. It was probably a good thing no one was taking my input at that game that day. Just like no one should have been taking Tua’s.

  15. Wait he wants players to actually take accountability? Can’t have that as an option, congress wouldn’t have anything to do since everything is perfect sunshine and unicorn farts in our country.

  16. I’m trying to remember when Harrison pulled himself out of a game claiming concussion. He delivered a lot of hits that affected him but him saying hey coach I need to come out I hit my head doesn’t ring a bell at all.

  17. nite2al says:
    October 3, 2022 at 10:08 am
    I swear, this is the most overblown issue in sports I have ever seen. I’ve hit my head on cement, floors, basketball courts and countless other not soft things without wearing a helmet.

    _________________________________________________________________________

    Well that explains some things…

  18. Rugby and aussie rules football doesnt have this problem. Take the helmets away, or make them leather again amd players will have tp start protecting themselves instead of just relying on helmet

  19. “I swear this is the most overblown issue in sports I have ever seen”? One, I guess you endorse head trauma as one of the “mythical” injuries NFL players have had in the past? You know, suicide guys like Junior Seau & Dave Duerson & Vincent Jackson etc etc etc? And two, Buddy I really hope you don’t have, or plan to have, any kids, with that way of thinking.

  20. Rodney Harrison is a jerk. He played without regard to his health and well-being.” Nor anyone else’s health and well-being. Rodney was one of the worst at targeting players with blind-sided hits and then standing over them, laughing. I have zero respect for Rodney Harrison, the jerk.

  21. He made his money, it’s easy to say from his viewpoint. NFL players have a short shelf life. If toughing out an injury increases their likelihood of getting that next contract, players will certainly try to do it.

  22. Can’t hear you, Rodney, as you were the dirtiest player of your generation.

  23. It’s over Tommy. It’s over! says:
    October 3, 2022 at 1:44 pm
    Can’t hear you, Rodney, as you were the dirtiest player of your generation.

    —-
    I think that’s probably reason #1 why he’s not in the HOF.

  24. Steve Nelson says:
    October 3, 2022 at 1:35 pm
    Rodney Harrison is a jerk. He played without regard to his health and well-being.” Nor anyone else’s health and well-being. Rodney was one of the worst at targeting players with blind-sided hits and then standing over them, laughing. I have zero respect for Rodney Harrison, the jerk.

    ———————————-

    While what you say is true, having been that jerk has him holding a clearer understanding than most of the consequences of that stuff.

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