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In a first-person essay, New York Jets’ D’Brickashaw Ferguson says his eyes have been opened about the National Football League after viewing the Will Smith drama Concussion.
The player recently saw the Sony Pictures film, which centers on an investigation about head injuries suffered by NFL players, and wrote about the viewing experience for Sports Illustrated. The 32-year-old, who plays left tackle, wrote that he understands the ramifications that stem from the punishment his body takes.
In his story, which was published Tuesday, Ferguson — the fourth pick of the 2006 NFL draft — was also somewhat critical on the league for, as the movie claims, trying to suppress information on chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) when studies first came to light.
“After learning all of this (what CTE is and how it occurs), I feel a bit betrayed by the people or committees put in place by the league who did not have my best interests at heart,” wrote Ferguson. “Dr. Elliot Pellman was one of the Jets’ team doctors when I was a rookie in 2006, and to learn that he was a part of the group that tried to discredit the scope and impact of brain injuries among players within the league is disheartening.”
Ferguson credits the NFL for stepped-up concussion protocols and adding new rules to increase player safety, but he still has concerns, the player wrote in the SI piece.
“Since seeing Concussion, I can’t avoid wondering if I am in danger of experiencing some degree of brain injury when I am done playing,” wrote Ferguson. “It couldn’t happen to me, right?”
He added: “I fear the unavoidable truth is that playing football has placed me in harm’s way, and I am not yet sure of the full extent of what it might cost me.”
National Football League Players Association executive George Atallah earlier told The Hollywood Reporter that it recommended players see Concussion and “at least a few hundred” former and current players have seen the movie. Sony is offering free admission to all NFL players and their families to see the pic at any time during its theatrical run.
Players’ reaction to the film as been mixed, according to Atallah.
“A number of players believe that the film might attack football itself,” he recently told THR. “Then there are players on the other side of the spectrum who understand that this is a story that they have not only lived through but is necessary to tell if we want to actually make the game safer in the future.”
Ferguson, meanwhile, says that he is unsettled by the notion he battled on the field with players who have since been diagnosed with brain injury.
“When you’ve actually competed against a player who was later found to have CTE, it is unsettling,” he wrote in the SI essay. “I played against Junior Seau when he was on the New England Patriots several times and never imagined that he would have ultimately succumbed to brain injury.”
Still, even with everything he says the movie taught him, Ferguson would not change his career choice.
“My involvement in the game from eighth grade to the NFL has been a journey that I couldn’t imagine not having as part of my life story,” he wrote. “But learning about CTE and brain injuries have made me wonder if I would so easily allow my child to follow my footsteps. If I had a son, would I let him play? I struggle to answer this question.”
The NFL did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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