Antwaan Randle El: “If I Could Go Back, I Wouldn’t Play Football.”

Antwaan Randle El

Former Pittsburgh Steeler wideout and Super Bowl XL Champion Antwaan Randle El (36) told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that if he could go back in time, he would choose not to play football. Randle El claims in the article by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he has suffered from multiple physical and mental ailments including memory loss, having trouble walking down stairs, and headaches. Randle El is quoted in saying:

“I have to come down sideways sometimes, depending on the day. Going up is easier actually than coming down.”

“I ask my wife things over and over again, and she’s like, ‘I just told you that.’ I’ll ask her three times the night before and get up in the morning and forget. Stuff like that. I try to chalk it up as I’m busy, I’m doing a lot, but I have to be on my knees praying about it, asking God to allow me to not have these issues and live a long life. I want to see my kids raised up. I want to see my grandkids.”

The former 14th round pick by the Chicago Cubs in the 1997 MLB Draft says that if he could go back, he would have chosen baseball over football, and in fact, he could still likely be playing baseball today if he had stuck with it:

“If I could go back, I wouldn’t (play football). I would play baseball. 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 retired “early” from the game of football in 2010 at the age of 30 due to frequent concussions and other various injuries, and has had a big voice when it comes to speaking up against the NFL’s view on concussions, as the league once claimed that football does not cause brain injuries. 

Following his retirement from the NFL, Randle El has dedicated his life to helping others, and helped found a Christian High School in Virginia called Virginia Academy, where he has served as the school’s athletic director and as a mentor for the students. Randle El also helped found and coach the school’s football team, but the program was dropped after just two seasons in 2013. Now, Randle El says that he believes that he can see the sport being dropped altogether at the high school level due to the speed of the game increasing, players getting bigger and stronger, and the high risk of injury the game poses for players in both the present and the future: 

“The kids are getting bigger and faster, so the concussions, the severe spinal cord injuries, are only going to get worse. It’s a tough pill to swallow because I love the game of football. 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.”

Maybe the most chilling quote from Randle El in the story by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is “Right now I wouldn’t be surprised if football isn’t around in 20-25 years.” 

Some schools willing to drop the game of football at the high school level is one thing, but the sport as a whole no longer being around? It sounds crazy but Randle El does bring up a strong point. Football is a violent game, and no matter how much padding you put on a player’s helmet, you cannot protect a person’s brain from getting concussed. 

Obviously, this is a really bad look for the NFL. A former Super Bowl champion with a history of concussion issues coming out and saying that his head does not feel right and that he is suffering both mentally and physically years after playing football is the last thing the league wants to deal with in the midst of this concussion crisis. 

The NFL has already taken a lot of heat following the release the movie “Concussion,” starring Will Smith and Alec Baldwin, which features a history of the league’s concussion problem, the science that discovered the issue, and the lasting effects concussions have had on former NFL players. The film displayed just how serious head injuries in football are and how often concussions occur while also portraying the neglection by the league and the media when it came time to addressing, fixing, and owning up to the issue. 

The movie “Concussion” was based on multiple Pittsburgh Steelers players suffering from concussions and the lasting effects the injuries had on them and their brains following football. Randle El’s quotes in this story by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette now bring Hollywood into real life, as the same team and city that were the main topics and setting of the movie “Concussion” have now had one of their real-life former stars come out and admit to suffering from concussions and dealing with multiple physical and mental hardships. 

Antwaan Randle El’s comments and the movie “Concussion” are stirring up what could be a perfect storm for negative publicity for the NFL. Hopefully, Antwaan Randle El can get the treatment that he needs in order to improve his physical and mental ailments suffered by playing football. As for the NFL, maybe they can learn to expand their studies and policies on concussions moving forward. With more and more players entering the league every year, the amount of current/former NFL employees (players) who have suffered concussions is only going to increase, which will call for more action and more explanation when it comes to the concussion issue. This could be the start of something huge, and could alter the way the American public views sports, especially football. 

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