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Former Patriots Linebacker Comes Forward on Concussions

Ted Johnson's Sad Decisions
National Media Takes Chance to Bash Belichick
League, Union Need to Address Concussion Issue

If any good can come from Jackie MacMullan's piece in The Boston Globe about former New England Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson's battle with the effects of post-concussion disorder, its that others make better decisions for themselves. Perhaps the league or NFL Players Association will do more to prevent reoccurrences.

Of course, the national media latched onto a story "in The New York Times," as if the story being in the Times over the Globe gives it more credence: "The Boston Globe, which is owned by the Times, ran a similar story," says the Associated Press.

The national media has been quick to label Belichick the villain as well, which is no surprise. What should have been a story about Johnson and the ravages of football concussions and their subsequent torrent of associated problems turned into Bash Belichick Fest.

Again from the AP: "Belichick subjected [Johnson] to hard hits in practice while he was recovering from a concussion -- against the advice of the team's top trainer." As though Belichick tied Johnson to a blocking sled and had players take free shots at Johnson.

Without recounting MacMullen's entire story, Johnson never said a word to Belichick that he couldn't play that practice several days after suffering a concussion in a preseason game. And then he played for another three years. Somehow, people think Belichick should be held responsible. In today's society, an individual is no longer responsible for his own actions and decisions. It must be someone else's fault.

After the second concussion, Johnson was held out for two weeks of practice. When he returned, he did not take reps with the first team and ended up inactivated for the first game of the season. At that point, did Johnson say, "Oh, good. They're finally looking out for my well-being"? No, he packed his things and stalked off. When they wanted him to play, he felt mistreated. When they didn't want him to play, he felt mistreated. Everybody's fault but his own.

Johnson Retires, Then Plays 3 More Seasons

Johnson said he considered retirement, but returned to the team when the players union said the Patriots could void his contract. Um, isn't that what retiring is? How does Johnson draw the conclusion that the team coerced him to play?

Even after he and Belichick cleared the air and Johnson returned to the lineup, he said he experienced effects of post-concussion syndrome and knew he shouldn't have been out there. But the week before when the team held him out, they were mistreating him. Funny how perspective changes.

Over his last three seasons, Johnson estimates he suffered at least six more concussions, but reported only one. That must be Belichick's fault too.

While he admits it was "stupid not to tell anyone" about the latter unreported concussions, at no point in MacMullan's story, which is fantastic by the way, does he say any of it was his fault or take responsibility for his own problems.

The Boston Herald's John Tomase interviews several players and asks them about Johnson's blame game. The burden is on the player to advocate his own well-being.

The real shame is that in the media's obsession to pile on Belichick is the real issue that concussions are a fact of life in the NFL and most players are not protected against repeat occurrences. And if you think Johnson is the only player under-reporting the concussions he sustained, you need you're head examined as much as he does.

Commissioner Cops Ignorance (and Ignorant) Plea

Instead of pointing fingers, the league and the media should be looking for solutions. It's unfortunate that the new NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, "won't accept the premise that [under-reporting or players returning too quickly from concussions] is a common practice," although he's "concerned" about it.

Wow. He's concerned. How about launching an investigation? How about getting together with the NFLPA and specifying some rules?

Goodell said the league has had a concussion committee, though he didn't say when this committee was formed, and he said they have been studying the issue, but he didn't say what action they've taken aside of a couple vague references to "new helmet designs" and "rule changes."

More deflection of blame.

The Players Association, according to executive director Gene Upshaw, said the union created a committee to study the issue, but, again, no word on when this was done or what purpose it has. Sounds like a lot of lip service resulting from MacMullan's story and the report that former Philadelphia Eagles defensive back Andre Walters committed suicide, very likely because of symptoms suffered as the result of post-concussion.

ESPN's 'Jacked Up' Must Go

If the league or union want to do something tangible, the first order of business should be banning ESPN's "Jacked Up" segment -- something I've railed against before, which glorifies guys scrambling their brains to the glee of three idiots -- one of whom is a noted concussion sufferer.

Our poll since mid-September has registered 142 votes: 100 of them (70 percent) in favor of ESPN ridding itself of the segment.

When Tedy Bruschi came back from his stroke, many people spoke out against him playing, far many more supported his decision. Ultimately, heeding the advice of doctors, the decision was Bruschi's. Had things turned out tragically different, it should not have been Belichick or the Patriots to shoulder the blame.

Johnson and many others made their own decisions. Only they can be responsible for them. It's unfortunate that some people need others to save them from themselves, but it's not the others' responsibility to do so.

One can only hope that this whole fiasco will serve as a warning to others who have to make similar decisions. They cannot rely on other players, their coaches, the league, the players association or ESPN to do it for them.

As always, discussion is encouraged. What do you think of Johnson's predicament and Belichick's involvement?


Who is most responsible for Ted Johnson's concussions?

This poll is closed

  • 46%
    Ted Johnson
    (6 votes)
  • 15%
    Bill Belichick
    (2 votes)
  • 7%
    The Patriots team doctors
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    The league
    (0 votes)
  • 7%
    The players union
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    ESPN's 'Jacked Up' segment
    (0 votes)
  • 23%
    No one. That's just football.
    (3 votes)
13 votes total Vote Now