Head in the right place
Bulls players discuss recent debate on NFL concussion issues
Buffalo's featured running back, junior Branden Oliver (32 above), was the Bulls' leading rusher in the 2012 season. Nick Fischetti /// The Spectrum
True freshman Devin Campbell (21 above) suffered a concussion on Nov. 11, 2012, against Western Michigan. Nick Fischetti /// The Spectrum
With the NFL season coming to a close, fans must endure an offseason full of rumors and speculation directed toward free agency, trades and the draft. But the growing discussion surrounding concussions and the post-football careers of the league's former players is likely to monopolize ESPN's coverage over the next few months.
The debate resurfaced two weeks ago when Junior Seau's family filed a lawsuit against the NFL, claiming the league doesn't do enough for the players.
"We know this lawsuit will not bring back Junior," Seau's family said in a statement to ESPN. "But it will send a message that the NFL needs to care for its former players, acknowledge its decades of deception on the issue of head injuries and player safety, and make the game safer for future generations."
Amid Super Bowl week, some of the players and even President Barack Obama touched on the subject.
Bone-crushing Baltimore Ravens safety Bernard Pollard said he doesn't think the NFL will exist in 30 years and Obama said he would not let his children play the game.
But nine-time Pro Bowler Ed Reed, also a safety for the Ravens, took a different approach - one that seems to be the leading counter-argument against those who oppose the NFL. Reed said Seau knew what he was signing up for when he played in the NFL all those seasons.
Which begs the question: is this what they signed up for? By playing in the NFL, are athletes content knowing they may suffer from lifelong injuries?
We've heard the opinions of players in the league who have come face to face with these issues, so what do the collegiate athletes have to say about it?
Bulls standout junior running back Branden Oliver has potential to pursue a professional career in football, and the issue isn't something he is too concerned about currently.
"I know the risk of [playing football]," Oliver said. "To tell you the truth, I really don't think that way. I just like to get out there and have fun."
Oliver has been fortunate thus far in his career, having never suffered from a concussion, but the threat is still there.
Asked if he is concerned about the impact of playing football on his long-term health, Oliver said he doesn't think it will affect him and he prays that it won't, also noting there are plenty of football players who don't suffer from these injuries.
One of Oliver's teammates, freshman running back Devin Campbell, hasn't been as fortunate. On Nov. 10, 2012, in a 29-24 win over Western Michigan, Campbell suffered a concussion and missed one game.
Campbell doesn't seem phased by the long-term effects playing football can have on someone, as he disagrees with Obama's stance on the matter.
"Definitely, [I would let my kids play]. This is something that I love and I want my kids to be able to experience it, too," Campbell said.
The consensus between Oliver and Campbell seemed to be that concussions aren't weighing heavily on their minds.
But this seems to be the topic that NFL veterans are addressing in the first place - you can only see how painful the consequences are once you have finished your career.
Campbell summed it up from the players' perspective.
"All football players know the risk you're getting into," Campbell said. "When you're constantly getting hit in the head, there are a lot of consequences to that. To me, I would still go play in the NFL and face the consequences after."
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