Less than twenty-four hours after learning of the death of former NFL great Junior Seau, another NFL legend, Kurt Warner, made an appearance on the “Dan Patrick Show”. During the course of the ten minute interview, Warner was asked if, in light of what is now known about concussions along with his own experiences in the game, would he want his sons to play football. This is what he said:
“They both have the dream, like dad, to play in the NFL,” Warner said. “That’s their goal. And when you hear things like the bounties, when you know certain things having played the game, and then obviously when you understand the size, the speed, the violence of the game, and then you couple that with situations like Junior Seau — was that a ramification of all the years playing? And things that go with that. It scares me as a dad. I just wonder — I wonder what the league’s going to be like. I love that the commissioner is doing a lot of things to try to clean up the game from that standpoint and improve player safety, which helps, in my mind, a lot. But it’s a scary thing for me.”
Asked if he would prefer that his sons not play football, Warner answered, “Yes, I would. Can’t make that choice for them if they want to, but there’s no question in my mind.”
I watched the interview live while prepping for my own work day. As soon as the words left his mouth and reached my ear I knew it would be a popular talking point over the course of the day, and it was. Warner’s interview with Patrick led most of the talking head shows on ESPN (PTI, Around the Horn, etc…), along with columnist throughout the nation. Most were sympathetic to Warner’s seemingly honest take on the situation, but then again most were writers and not professional football peers.
One fellow retired peer who spoke in against Warner’s comments was former teammate was Amani Toomer, who appeared on NBC Sports Talk that same night and said, “I think Kurt Warner needs to keep his opinions to himself when it comes to this. Everything that he’s gotten in his life has come from playing football. He works at the NFL Network right now. For him to try and trash the game, it seems to me that it’s just a little disingenuous to me.”
While Toomer’s comments against Warner are transparently idiotic, the sentiment must have gotten back to Warner who, by the close of business Thursday was already backtracking during an appearance on the “Hill and Schlereth Show”:
“I agree from my standpoint that everything I have gotten, and I love the game and I wouldn’t change a thing about my career,” Warner said in response to Toomer’s remarks. “I’ve enjoyed every bit of it. I continue to love it. I continue to watch it, and am a big fan of the game. But at the end of the day, you know, I’ve seen how my wife looks at this game when I’m out there getting hit. And it’s different when you put on a parent’s hat. And, yeah, I want my kids to play and I want them to be healthy and I’d love them to have a great long career whether that’s collegiate, whether that’s professional. I’d love all that. But as a parent I can’t avoid the fact that it’s a dangerous sport, and it’s a violent sport.
“And it’s not just football I’m talking about. Any time my kids are put in harm’s way, as a parent I say, ‘I don’t want them to do that. I don’t want them to take that chance.’ Can I protect them from anything? No. Am I gonna sit here and say, ‘You can’t do this. You can’t do that, you can’t drive in a car, you can’t do all the things that are risky in life.’ Of course not.
“But my point being is that as a parent, do you think about that? Do you think about the violence of the game when your kids play? And, yeah, my kids are 13 years old and my son has already suffered a concussion. Do I think about that? Of course I think about that. And the bottom line for me as a parent, is as much as I love the game and what it’s all about and what it’s done for me, the most important thing for me is the safety of my kids. And so that’s my point, is that I consider it. And it’s in my thought process. And when they play and when they wanna play and when they talk about playing professionally, I’m very conscious of that.
“And, you know, at the end of the day, I’d love for them to play football. If they don’t play football and never suffer an injury doing anything, I’m going to be an extremely parent as they move into the rest of their life and take care of their family and their kids. So I don’t know why I would have to keep my comments to myself. I’m speaking as a father. But I love the game of football and I’ll always love it and I’m so appreciate of what it did for me.”
Why Warner would feel any pressure to kow tow to the righteous indignation of Toomer, and those like-minded, is beyond me. He doesn’t owe anything to anyone in regards to the health and well-being of his children. If anything, he’s earned the right to say what he means with conviction having played at a Hall of Fame caliber level over a ten year period in the NFL.
Toomer’s entire point of his family being football players is beyond flacid, and the mindset is what led many involved in the game to turn a blind eye to the serious health ramifications of the sport for most of the last fifty years. If Toomer can’t read back his own comments and see how asinine they are in relation to what it means to force his own kids into such a violent game, then I feel sorry for him and his family.
Its obvious that while Warner is still on the NFL payroll (he’s currently a talking head for the NFL Network, and does a pretty good job), the pressure for him to reasses his position and not be so doom and gloom came form in-house.
NFL Commisioner Roger Goodell is burning the candle at both ends trying to keep this cash cow called the NFL standing upright with full udders given all the lawsuits coming down the pipe from former players claiming they haven’t been properly taken care of by the league and have life-impairing injuries threatening to milk it dry. However, that shouldn’t be a concern to Warner any more than it should be to Toomer.
The business of the NFL doesn’t outweigh the responsibilities of a parent. Warner spoke earlier as a parent first, and later as a shill for a corporation. The former was from the heart, the latter was from the wallet (and the small part of the brain that stores misapproprated guilt).
Just because Warner doesn’t want his sons to play football doesn’t mean that he will force them not to either. Rarely has any parent been succesful to force their teenaged kids to do anything. But they can sure as hell guide and advise them.
Warner’s sons, according to him, have already expressed a desire to play, and one of them has even suffered a concussion while playing. For Warner to fear for their safety makes him a loving and dutiful father. Nothing more, nothing less.
(quotes courtesy of Pro Football Talk)