My apologies for being a bit scarce the past couple of days, folks. . .our Korean counterparts hosted a "Friendship Day" for the weather units here on the peninsula on Friday afternoon. Let me tell you. . .between the soju and whatever other beverages were flowing throughout the afternoon and evening, I was feeling mighty darn friendly by the time we had to jump on the bus to go home.
But even in the state I was in yesterday, I don't think I would have had it within myself to say something as utterly uninformed as was spoken by NBC NFL analyst Rodney Harrison.
(We call that a "segue". . .and a pretty good one, if I might say so.)
Harrison will be part of the crew that will be working this Sunday's game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Green Bay Packers from the NBC studios. While it was expected that the Vikings were going to give Josh Freeman a chance to make amends for the disaster we saw on Monday night at MetLife Stadium, it was revealed a couple of days later that he had a concussion, and the Vikings said they would, instead, start Christian Ponder at quarterback for the "Border Battle."
For whatever reason he might have for saying it, Rodney Harrison decided to say the following about Josh Freeman:
"I can't say that I believe he has a concussion. I can't say I'm 100% sold out. I'm not trying to doubt the seriousness of his injury if he has one, but it just seems like a convenient excuse to get out of a situation."
"I played safety at a high level for a long time and I was bangin' and I never missed a game because of a concussion so it just seems like an excuse to me."
(Thanks to the folks at Awful Announcing for the sound file and the link.)
It blows my mind that Harrison would accuse Freeman of something like this. . .but maybe it shouldn't, given the age that we're in and the attitude of many sports fans. After all, when it was revealed that Christian Ponder had suffered a rib injury and was being replaced, there were many (who have obviously seen too many Hollywood movies and/or have their tin foil hats strapped on way too tightly) that immediately concluded that the injury was simply an excuse to get him out of the lineup for a team that was 0-3.
But a concussion isn't a rib injury or an ankle sprain or something like that. . .those sorts of things probably could be easily faked (though I doubt that was what happened with Ponder). Things like concussions, on the other hand. . .well, the human brain is something that you don't mess with. We saw it first-hand with Percy Harvin and his migraine headache issues when he was with Minnesota, and there are numerous players across the National Football League and many other sports that have serious issues with concussions.
People need to look no further than our own NFC North to find a guy like Jahvid Best, who went from being a first-round pick to being out of the league in two years because of his problems with concussions. Ryan Swope, a receiver from Texas A&M, was drafted in the fifth round of this year's draft by the Arizona Cardinals, and his concussion issues from college caused him to retire before he even took the practice field. Closer to home, former Minnesota Twins' first baseman Justin Morneau was a former American League Most Valuable Player. . .and after he suffered a concussion in a game against Toronto a few years ago, he was really never the same player.
With all of the focus that the National Football League is putting on safety in general, and the concussion issue in particular, I find it amazing that anyone would think that a guy could fake his way through something like this. The league just settled a lawsuit to the tune of $765 million that centered, largely, around concussions and brain trauma. The documentary League of Denial, which recently aired on PBS (and which you can watch right here) and the book of the same title have kept the spotlight on the issue. Not to mention the fact that, if a player is believed to have suffered a concussion, they have to be cleared by an independent doctor before they're allowed back on the field again.
Rodney Harrison says that he's never had a problem with concussions. Well, good for him. He should consider himself blessed. I bet that the Jahvid Bests, the Ryan Swopes, and the Justin Morneaus of the world wish they could say the same thing. But they can't. And unless you can bust out a degree in neurology, you're probably not in the position to say whether someone else is faking a concussion or not.