John Keim | ESPN.com
Suddenly, a familiar pain resurfaced in a hurry. Six ribs, broken and healed earlier in the season, were broken again.
Pollard didn’t leave the game.
So when asked about playing in the Super Bowl with a concussion, Pollard knows exactly what he would do. And it’s what most NFL players say they would do: play.
In an NFL Nation anonymous survey, 85 percent of the 320 players polled said they would play in the Super Bowl with a concussion.
“We are competitors. We want to go out there and entertain. That’s all we are. We’re entertainers. Guys want to go out there,” said Pollard, now with the Tennessee Titans. “They don’t want to let themselves down. They don’t want to let their teammates down. They want to go out there and play, not thinking about, ‘OK, what can this affect later on down the line?'”
When Washington Redskins linebacker London Fletcher, who just finished his 16th and probably final NFL season and never missed a game, was asked the survey question, his first comment was, “Did 100 percent say yes?”
But he also said it would depend on the severity of the concussion. Fletcher had a concussion during training camp in 2012 and missed a preseason game.
“If it’s something where I’m having just a few symptoms and can hide it from the trainer, then yeah, I would do it,” he said. “With some of them, you get in a game and you can’t play.”
One Washington player, who has suffered a concussion in the past two years, declined to comment on the record about whether he’d play for fear he’d send the wrong message to youth football players.
We are competitors. We want to go out there and entertain. That’s all we are. We’re entertainers. Guys want to go out there. They don’t want to let themselves down. They don’t want to let their teammates down. They want to go out there and play, not thinking about, ‘OK, what can this affect later on down the line?’
“ — Bernard Pollard, on why he’d play in a Super Bowl despite having a concussion
“It depends on if I was able to focus,” Lacy said. “Then I would probably play or go back in. But that’s a serious injury to play with, so I probably wouldn’t chance it.”
The NFL has made it tougher for players to return from a concussion with daily tests they must pass. That protocol is important to New Orleans Saints tackle Zach Strief, who said it would determine whether he’d return had the concussion occurred before the Super Bowl.
“I wouldn’t come back into a game dizzy or nauseous,” Strief said. “You’re not going to help your team any if you come back in all messed up. The old ‘you got your bell rung’ mentality has to change. I would never do something I felt was risking something that would be permanent or affected me down the road.”
The protocol is one reason 60 percent of the players polled said the NFL is committed to player safety, with rules changes designed to eliminate hits on defenseless players.
“They took tremendous steps toward the future of this game as far as violent hits, as far as protecting defenseless players, as far as concussion protocol,” Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo said. “I’m proud of the way they handle concussions. I’m proud of the way the NFL is going.”
However, Fletcher isn’t sold on this notion, pointing to the withholding of information in the past regarding concussions.
“Some of it’s more to protect themselves from lawsuits,” he said. “A lot of that is just to make themselves look right from a public opinion standpoint. I don’t know if they’re truly committed to player safety.”
Other players pointed to the need to eliminate cut blocks as another way to improve safety.
“So many times you see guys get hurt on a simple cut block,” Orakpo said.
Pollard agreed with Orakpo that the league is headed in the right direction when it comes to player safety. However, the dangerous nature of the sport will never change, he said.
“This is a very violent sport, and you’re just not going to cut down on that,” Pollard said. “You’ve got guys that are coming up every year that are bigger, stronger, faster, quicker. You’re not going to stop these hard hits.”
ESPN.com Packers reporter Rob Demovsky and ESPN.com Ravens reporter Jamison Hensley contributed to this report.
- Covered the Redskins for the Washington Examiner and other media outlets since 1994
- Authored or co-authored three books on the Redskins and one on the Cleveland Browns