DeAndre Levy Comments on Potentially Having CTE, Dangers of Football

Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistMarch 30, 2016

Detroit Lions outside linebacker DeAndre Levy prepares for drills at the team's football training facility, Monday, Aug. 24, 2015, in Allen Park, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

As concussions and brain injuries continue to dominate the conversation around football, Detroit Lions linebacker DeAndre Levy is the latest NFL player to discuss the situation. 

In a letter emailed to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, Levy acknowledged that missing most of last season gave him an opportunity to examine certain things related to football injuries:

This last year, I had a lot of hours in the training room and realized how normal injury is to us, as football players. I think about how we're almost numb to it because it's a part of the job. I became numb to the fact that CTE could be present in me. Like maybe my head buzzing a day after a game isn't normal. Maybe the emotional highs and lows of a football game/season and beyond aren’t normal. Maybe when I forget something, there's more to it than just forgetfulness. Disconnected thoughts, at times, might be a part of it. I know of and have heard many players talk about these same issues and if they relate to CTE.

Levy went on to say NFL players "have to acknowledge" chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and open up a discussion about the disease. He also declares the league "can't be trusted" when it comes to this subject and has "failed its players" by not fully explaining the "risks and the rewards" that go along with playing football professionally:

Not only never talking about the risks, but some people going a step further to deny and cover it up. It’s imperative to help make players, current and future, more aware of all of the challenges they may face as a result of the choice to play football. We need to have the opportunity to really understand what each other may be going through. It's scary to think I may have CTE.

Levy, 29, took a leaf out of head coach Jim Caldwell's book and used a quote to explain why he's opening up now: "'Silence is an action.' That's why I feel the need to say something. If I say nothing, I'm condoning the misinformation that’s spreading."

One major topic Levy addressed were recent comments made by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay. 

Jones told Mark Maske of the Washington Post that it was "absurd" to assume based on present data that there is a definitive link between playing football and CTE, though he did acknowledge the NFL wants to "continue to support any type of research that would let us know what [the] consequences really are."

Irsay's comments to the Sports Business Journal were even more inflammatory, comparing the dangers of playing football to taking over-the-counter medication: "You take an aspirin, I take an aspirin, it might give you extreme side effects of illness and your body…may reject it, where I would be fine. So there is so much we don’t know."

Levy said in his letter that he questioned the timing of Jones' and Irsay's comments coming out of the NFL owners meetings: "Were they speaking for the whole or just themselves? My main problem with Irsay’s comments is that this isn't an opinion-based issue…it's medical experts stating facts."

In a follow-up email with Birkett, Levy wrote he continues to play perhaps because he "[likes] the chance of beating the odds." He added, "Maybe I'm still in denial, thinking that the worst can't happen to me."

Levy, who has played his seven-year career with the Lions, has started all but one game he's been healthy for since 2010. He had a career-high 121 solo tackles in 2014 but was only able to play in one game last season due to a hip injury. 

The Lions placed Levy on injured reserve in November, three weeks after he had surgery to repair the injury.