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Quote:Holmes sees the light on NFL toll
The Daily Chris Corbellini
Updated Jul 5, 2012 1:05 PM ET
It sounds like a near-death experience.
That’s how Priest Holmes, a former All-Pro running back, described head-to-head crashes on the football field. For a moment, as bodies are peeled off a woozy ballcarrier by officials and teammates, the sky can change color or become a heavenly light.
“This color obviously isn’t going to be blue. It can be a color that can be orange. It can be red. The sky could turn green,” Holmes told The Daily. “There’s even an episode where you see a clear light, like light at the end of the tunnel.”
It’s the cruel trade-off of pro football: Play long enough to earn riches, and fame and the toll on the body and mind may be irrevocable. Some of the hardiest of former players like Holmes — a workhorse runner for a large chunk of his career with the Baltimore Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs from 1997-2005 before a comeback as a part-timer in 2007 — admit that the hitting involved is unnatural for a human body.
“As much as I loved it (football), that same love now has put me in situations that I have to live with,” said Holmes, now an analyst for the Longhorn Network.
An undrafted free agent, Holmes led the league with 1,555 rushing yards in 2001. But the hundreds of body blows and head-rattlers on Sunday afternoons affects his daily life.
“The frontal headaches, the migraines. Laying in bed, it’s tough to get out mornings just because of the pain that is setting in with an arthritic condition, it’s things like that that you never would have really thought about,” he said.
Holmes is not the only one with scars that won’t mend. Scores of former players are involved in a consolidated lawsuit against the NFL, stating the league had concealed information linking head injuries and concussions to permanent health problems. Holmes, 38, would have been a headliner in this case and, after 1,780 career carries, would seem a likely candidate to do so. In 2005, head and neck trauma nearly ended his pro career, and when he did return in ’07, he was no longer an elite back.
One of his former protégés, Jamal Lewis, is part of the concussion-related suit, as is one of his idols, Hall of Famer Tony Dorsett. Still, Holmes is not attached to the litigation.
In Holmes’ view, every former player suffers in a unique way. But he said for running backs, the odds of major wear and tear increase dramatically if you hit a certain statistical benchmark: four years with 350 or more carries per season. In those cases, he theorizes, long-term health issues can show up before an athlete has even retired.
“The body is just not built to be able to do that,” Holmes said. “I think it truly does have a big effect on players — especially players such as Jamal that have been a 2,000-yard rusher, invincible, helped take us to the Super Bowl (in January 2001), done so many amazing things, and then it results in ‘Why can’t I remember certain things? I can’t remember the exit I need to take when going back to the grocery store.’ ”
Lewis, who did not speak to The Daily despite repeated attempts to reach him, carried the ball 300 or more times during his first three seasons. In May, Lewis, who recently filed for bankruptcy, told the Cleveland Plain-Dealer that occasionally doesn’t know where he is when driving in his native Atlanta.
During Lewis’ first season in 2000, Holmes visited the rookie at his home on Thursday nights to eat barbecue and then go over game film. Asked if he could go back and tell the young back that it’s OK to run out of bounds at times, Holmes said it’s difficult to tell a runner to go against his nature.
“It just didn’t fit his demeanor,” Holmes said. “It probably would have worked against him if he went out of bounds. Mentally, that would change the mindset of the linebacker. Now that linebacker would approach him differently.”
In Week 7 of the 2005 season at San Diego, a hit by Chargers rookie linebacker Shawne Merriman drove Holmes out of the game with what was originally termed a “mild concussion.” For the next three to four months, the running back said he visited specialists on both coasts. Alarmingly, neither could come up with a diagnosis.
“Take some time off. You need some rest,” Holmes was told. "Other than that, there was no treatment. There was nothing they could provide for me,” Holmes recalled. “Was it a lack of research? Or was it just a step that hasn’t been developed by the league?
“That was just seven years ago, and the league has been around for a lot longer than those seven years.”
Holmes was lukewarm about his three sons playing football, encouraging them only if they showed interest on their own. When getting hit can turn a blue sky to green, it gives a father pause.
“I always let them know, this isn’t a have-to,” he said. “Believe me, there’s other avenues you can choose in life.”
RE: Holmes sees the light on NFL toll[FOX] - hitwriter - 07-06-201202:33 AM
So basically these players are saying they would have forgone the NFL had they known the effects of playing the game? BS! The NFL didn't hide diddly squat! These were premier athletes with an opportunity for fame and fortune... they knew what the risks were as does any player coming out of college today wanting to be taken in the draft.
As medicine, science and technology evolve we all learn at the same time... The NFL and the players are getting the same information... nobody is hiding anything.
Name me one eligible collegiate player who elected not be in this years draft for the reasons discussed in this article?
RE: Holmes sees the light on NFL toll[FOX] - Beef - 07-06-201211:07 AM
Here's the thing that negates their argument... As soon as they got their first concussion or "saw the light" and it gave them headaches or took them out of commission for a few days, they KNEW the dangers. They had to know that what happened to them wasn't good, wasn't natural, and had the potential to permanently injure or cause future issues. And yet they kept playing.
If you've ever had a real concussion, you don't need a scientist, doctor, and a bunch of statistical evidence to tell you it could cause residual permanent issues, especially if you keep getting them. When you have a 5 day migraine the worst you've ever felt, you can't see properly, your motor skills are off, and you're puking your guts out, and yet you choose to put yourself back in position to endure that multiple times, you don't get to blame someone else because they didn't tell you it might be bad for you in the future.
These guys are looking for a pay day and that's it. They are responsible, nobody else.
RE: Holmes sees the light on NFL toll[FOX] - hitwriter - 07-06-201203:30 PM
Here's part of my defense if I'm the NFL... 99.9 percent of these players (I'm guessing the number) played from pee wee all the way thru high school and of course college... what burden do these institutions bear in their ill health?
I'm a professional musician and three time heart attack survivor... I'm I now going to unite those fellow musicians, bar workers etc... who now suffer the effects of second hand smoke and file a law suit against every club and venue I worked at. I knew the risks like everyone else and chose the paycheck.
I hope to hell the NFL lands a judge with common sense!
RE: Holmes sees the light on NFL toll[FOX] - cnasty - 07-06-201210:53 PM
It's hard to feel sorry for someone who earns millions of dollars a year just from playing a game. A smart player would get in, make his money, and then exit the league gracefully. Nobody is holding a gun to their heads, forcing them to lace up every Sunday. They made the choice to play a violent sport for a large sum of money. Now they want to come back and try to act like they didn't know what they were doing? That's bullshit.
RE: Holmes sees the light on NFL toll[FOX] - Jesus - 07-07-201208:37 PM
Football players receive more head injuries in daily practice throughout their career than in games. They just go undocumented because no one is paying attention.
Frankly I don't care. If you play football you know the risks. The NFL never loses.
RE: Holmes sees the light on NFL toll[FOX] - Capitan - 07-08-201208:49 AM
Some players are just jumping on the bandwagaon while others are having issues...Jamal Anderson for one!!! Getting pulled over for DUI driving too slow, but his attorney says that he was not drunk!! He will go to court swearing he is suffering from concussions received while playing!!!
What a crock!!!!
RE: Holmes sees the light on NFL toll[FOX] - Drathdon - 07-08-201209:59 AM
Exactly. He wasn't snorting coke off of a toilet seat! He had a concussion headache and needed to lay his head down. That coke was already there!