Think what you want about the vitriol that came the way of former NFL quarterback Kurt Warner last week, but the current NFL Network analyst shouldn't have to apologize for being completely honest—and echoing the concerns of most others in the game—about the long-term fear surrounding the concussion issue in the NFL.
Regardless, Warner issued a long statement on his website Monday to answer the criticisms of ESPN's Merrill Hoge and former teammate Amani Toomer after Warner expressed his concerns about his sons playing football last week.
After a busy week in NFL news I wanted to take a minute to respond to the critics of the recent comments that I made regarding my boys and the game of football. First, let me say that it always disappoints me that we can no longer respect others opinions, choose to disagree and use them as a means of dialogue to better understand the differing thoughts and concerns we may have, and from where these differing views stem. In this day and age, it seems as if many take the approach, “It’s ok to share your opinion, as long as it agrees with mine, but if not keep it to yourself or you will be attacked.”
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution gives every person in this country the freedom of speech, which includes both Warner's concerns and Toomer's and Hoge's attacks afterwards.
But what Warner said last week–outlining his own personal fears about his own children playing a game that involves the kind of long-term consequences that the medical world is only beginning to scratch the surface of—shouldn't be subject to the kind of attack both mounted.
Any parent, regardless of whether or not they made their living in football, should have concerns about their child playing the game. It's a ruthless sport. Apologizing for making that opinion known is not needed from Warner or any other former player.
Warner made it clear that his comments stemmed only from the violence in the game.
I love the X’s and O’s of the game. I love the strategy of the game of football. I love the competitiveness of playing the greatest team sport in the world, where 11 guys must come together at the same time for the team to have success. I love the chess match within each game, the moves and countermoves and the pressure filled responses that dictate who will be the victor. I love the discipline and hard work that is required to succeed in any sport, especially the game of football. Yet, at the same time I am fully aware of the one aspect that I do not love… the violence.
Football is a game predicated on legal violence, the kind that would likely land you in prison if performed outside the white lines of a field.
260-pound linebackers now run 40-yard dashes at cornerback speed. Defensive ends weighing 300 pounds collide heads with 330-pound offensive linemen on every single play. Running backs daringly run right into the middle of that chaos, while receivers are routinely hit in the head while trying to make a catch across the middle or near the sidelines. Quarterbacks are the targets of defensive players on every play, regardless of whether or not a $10,000 bounty is on their head.
There is danger on every snap. And the toll adds up, in a hurry.
The long-term effects are no longer a secret, either.
In the midst of a rash of deaths among former NFL players with multiple head injuries, the NFL is dealing with a lawsuit from other former players that currently lists thousands of plaintiffs. It's quite possibly the biggest threat to the game we've seen in years.
So Warner getting singled out and attacked by former players, especially when talking about the concerns of his own children playing the game, is completely ludicrous. Warner said as much in his statement.
So I don’t believe I threw anyone ‘under the bus’, but rather spoke honestly about the concerns that I (and many others) have as a PARENT in regards to football. I believe these concerns are the reason the commissioner of the NFL continues to do everything in his power to increase the safety of the NFL’s greatest commodity: the players. Moves that I fully support across the board, because I believe at the end of the day, protecting the game and it’s players will ALWAYS be the MOST important thing.
The NFL has made Kurt Warner more rich and famous then he ever could have imagined. Keep in mind that this was a guy who was playing in the Arena Football League and stocking grocery store shelves before he made his NFL mark.
But that doesn't rob him of his own concerns for the game moving forward. It's a violent venture, even if that's the risk you sign up for when playing the sport.
Warner knows all of that. And as a parent, he should have a say in whether or not his kids take that risk. His family knows all about head injury, too, as his 22-year-old step son has dealt with a brain trauma his entire life. If anyone has a unique perspective on football and dealing with head injuries, it's Warner.
I have spent the last 22 years of my life living with a child that has a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). I understand the challenges that come with having an injury to the brain and although my son is a tremendous blessing, I am saddened by the daily struggles he has to face due to the injury. So I hope all can understand my fear of placing any of my children into an environment where the speculation of head trauma is in the forefront.
In the end, Warner didn't need to write his long answer to the critics. He was always right in what he said last week.
But he answered every criticism that appeared over the last couple of days, including that of Hoge and Toomer. If anyone deserves an apology in the whole matter, it's Warner from those two knuckleheads.