Rodney Harrison makes impassioned plea to players to not play through concussions: “It’s not worth it”

BOSTON — Rodney Harrison was one of the hardest hitters in the NFL during his 15-year career with the Chargers and Patriots. He inflicted a lot of pain, and he absorbed plenty of it himself.

As someone who thrived on that on-field punishment, Harrison may be the unlikeliest spokesman for player safety. Yet the 49-year-old used his platform on the Sunday Night Football pregame show to make an impassioned plea to today’s generation of players, imploring them that the long-term effects of playing through concussions is simply not worth it.

“I would get hit, the entire stadium is spinning around, and I would go back into the game. It’s not worth it,” Harrison said. “And I would implore these young men: Don’t go back on that football field if you get hurt, because I don’t want them to have to feel like me and so many other former players that had to deal with concussions.”

Harrison has spoken out in the past about his fears regarding the brain trauma he endured playing football, telling Bob Costas in 2013 that he was “scared to death” of what might happen to him 10 or 15 years down the line. At the time, he spoke of loneliness, anxiety, and headaches.

On Sunday night, Harrison spoke further on those issues.

“Whether it’s depression, anxiety, paranoia, broken relationships, not being able to communicate with your spouse and things like that. It’s a lot. CTE takes you to a dark place,” Harrison said. “And I want these players to know it’s not worth it. Please take care of yourself. Don’t depend on the NFL. Don’t depend on anybody. If something is wrong with your head, report it.”

The NFL — and football in general — has come a very long way in terms of concussion awareness and safety since Harrison retired in 2008. But the issue has been forced to the forefront of the football conversation this week, after Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was allowed to return to a game after suffering what appeared to be a clear head injury last weekend, and then was allowed to play in Miami’s Thursday night game just four days later. Tagovailoa suffered a serious concussion in that game, requiring a stretcher to be removed from the field.

Harrison has estimated that he suffered between 20 and 30 concussions during his career.

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