|No pressure, Tim, it's only your brain.|
Though the University of Florida and Coach Urban Meyer have been nothing but careful with their words, I don't think there was ever really a doubt that Tim Tebow would play in tonight's big game against LSU. This, just two weeks removed from a hellacious concussing hit that earned him an ambulance ride to the hospital in the middle of the game.
The inevitability of this is even more disturbing considering the recent study commissioned by the NFL, which found a number of crippling consequences from not giving these head injuries proper time to heal.
With that in mind, we've assembled a list of ten great NFL careers ended -- most later than they should have been -- by concussions. There are both Dolphins and Dolphin-slayers. The list is mostly quarterbacks, but we also have receivers, a running back, a tight end, a linebacker, and one sad safety.
The human brain is by far the most mysterious organ in the human body. And one of the only things we do know is that we know practically nothing about how injuries affect the brain. A recent report by HBO's Real Sports showed that playing after a concussion can lead to permanent brain damage and/or death. And the younger the brain, the more potentially severe the damage.
These men gave admirably to the game. Some are still in the spotlight, some of the top voices in the game. Some live horrible lives of constant pain. And for some, the story is even worse.
1. Trent Green - Though he played another season with the Rams in 2008, the hit that essentially (should have) ended Green's career came as a member of the Dolphins. It was one of the most hideous scenes in the team's history. As Green lay unconscious on the turf, Texan defensive tackle Travis Johnson -- believing he had been blocked low -- taunted the quarterback. It was the second time the veteran had been knocked out cold on a football field in a matter of months. We worry about the future of Green's health.
2. Wayne Chrebet - One of the models for the small, white, fearless wide receiver who always seems to come through when the team needs a big play, Chrebet came up biggest, sadly, against the Dolphins. Even more sad, though, is that now -- less than a decade after his greatest feats -- Chrebet can barely remember a lot of that career.
3. Ron Jaworski - The legendary Eagles quarterback (and present Monday Night Football color guy) says he suffered about 30 concussions in his playing career. It's hard to tell how exaggerated that statement may be. He certainly blathers incoherently from time to time on ESPN, but who knows if that's from head trauma.
4. Steve Young - The second half the greatest quarterback tandem of all time and certainly the greatest Mormon athlete in history, Young downplays the role concussions played in his retirement and the life he lives now. But after getting a fierce blow to the head two weeks before his 38th birthday, Young never played football again.
5. John Mackey - He's one of the main reasons Baltimore won Super Bowl V, and for many, Mackey will always be the best tight end the game has ever seen. But damage from concussions has left him a shell of his former self. The concussion-induced dementia makes him agitated and paranoid and has led to several unfortunate encounters with authority figures.
6. Merril Hoge - This former bruiser had a string of concussions near the end of his career, a good example that with each concussion, the injured party becomes more vulnerable for future head injuries. Concussion clusters toward the end of a player's career are not uncommon.
7. Al Toon - One of those classic late '80s-early/'90s receivers who seemed to kill the Dolphins at least once a year. He also averaged more than one significant head injury every year. After his ninth concussion, Toon retired... at the age of 29. He is one of the first former players to speak out about the dire health effects of so many blows to the head.
8. Troy Aikman - Because he is part of the "A" broadcast team at Fox -- generally calling the top NFC game of the week -- and as a result tied into the league he covers, Aikman doesn't talk much about his many concussions. He sometimes says his back was a bigger factor in retirement. Any Cowboy fan who saw the hit from Lavar Arrington, though, knows exactly what knocked the three-time Super Bowl winner out of the league.
9. Ted Johnson - On the field, Johnson was an animal, a key part of the New England Patriots dynasty in the first part of this decade. But now he battles severe depression, amphetamine addiction, and a life in lots of pain. He also suffered back-to-back concussions within days during the 2002 season, and the Patriots didn't want him to miss time.
10. Andre Waters - He was a defensive back from Belle Glade, an undrafted rookie, and eventually a key part of the Buddy Ryan Eagles defense in the late '80s. In 2006, after years battling depression and suffering from the dementia of an old man with Alzheimer's, Waters committed suicide in his home in Tampa.