Don't call Brian Urlacher crazy

OPINION

He has a point when he says knee injuries are worse than concussions

November 28, 2012|By Jack M Silverstein | For RedEye

It's time for a Bears edition of "would you rather?" starring Brian Urlacher.

The question: Would you rather have Lance Louis' knee injury or Devin Hester's head injury?

Let's compare. Louis tore his ACL during Sunday's win over Minnesota when he was upended on a vicious block during an interception return. Louis will miss the rest of the season.

Hester sustained a concussion in the first half and was pulled for the rest of the game. Based on the Bears' handling of concussions this season, it is reasonable to assume Hester will miss Sunday's game against Seattle and, assuming he is cleared to play, will return the following week.

So, which injury is worse?

For Urlacher, the answer is simple. Louis will miss five-regular season games and an opportunity to help his team win a Super Bowl. And because this is the final year of his rookie contract, he will miss achance to maximize his market potential. Regardless of any long-term concerns over Hester's brain, Urlacher believes Louis' injury is worse.

Urlacher expressed this view four days after Jay Cutler and Shea McClellin suffered concussions against Houston, telling reporters he would still lie to team personnel if he thought he had a concussion. He is much more worried about protecting his knees than his head.

"I know concussions are a big deal too, but I think cut blocks are a big deal," he said. "But that seems OK with the NFL. So they're not too concerned about safety, obviously."

When asked about the difference between brain injuries and knee injuries, Urlacher was unequivocal. "A knee injury puts you out for a season, a concussion you may miss a game or two. Big difference."

Urlacher drew the ire of columnists over this sentiment, a few arguing that "he just doesn't get it."

But look at it from Urlacher's perspective. To say "he doesn't get it" imposes a value system on Urlacher that he does not share. He does get it, and what he gets is this: I am a football player. I am here to play football. A brain injury damages my chances to live when I'm 50, but a knee injury damages my chances to play football next Sunday.

To Urlacher, this isn't a debate. Playing football now is a higher priority than being alive 20 years from now. And all the Dave Duersons, Jim McMahons and Hunter Hillenmeyers won't do anything to change his mind.

But it's easy to pick on Urlacher as being some sort of brute who "doesn't care about his brain," or something.

So let's look at his teammate and fellow linebacker Nick Roach.

Roach is not your typical football player. He is a Northwestern graduate who majored in art theory and practice. He is a painter, photographer, sculptor and videographer. Despite growing up in Packers country and spending the past decade in Chicago, he has no interest in football outside his immediate profession. Why not?

"It's the same reason that people who don't follow football don't follow football," he said earlier this season. "They just have other interests."

Despite all the talk about concussions and brain damage, and despite his passion for art and the value his brain will hold for him long after he retires from football, Roach isn't thinking about concussions either.

"I don't think just having an interest in art makes me think about [concussions] any more," he said. "At the end of the day it's a risk that's always been involved in the game, probably more so back before a lot of the rule changes that we've had lately. It's just kind of one of those things. … You don't sit around and talk about how you might feel when you're 40 or 50 years old. You know what I mean?"

So it doesn't worry him?

"I mean, it could worry anybody. Anybody could get anything at any point. People come down with cancer and strokes out of nowhere. It's just like anything that could happen."

True. Then you think back to Gaines Adams, Roach's Bears teammate in 2009 who dropped dead in January 2010 at age 26 from cardiac arrest due to an enlarged heart. It was a condition neither he nor his family nor his doctors knew existed.

And then you think about yourself, and all the habits that hinder your future. Like most people under 40, I don't spend much time thinking about how my physical choices will affect me later in life. YOLO, right? My priorities are doing whatever I can to eat every day, sleep indoors every night, be a great writer and a responsible community member. The fact I eat Harold's three times a week and rarely exercise never figures into it.

Unlike Urlacher and the potential cause of his concussions, I'm not getting paid to damage my future.

Chances are, neither are you.

Special contributor Jack M Silverstein covers the Bears for RedEye. Say hey @ReadJack.

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