Winston Justice: Concussions, injuries an unfortunate part of football

Posted: September 15, 2010

Eagles right tackle Winston Justice is writing a column for the Daily News again this season. His columns appears Wednesdays.

THERE IS a quiet secret that doesn't get talked about much in the locker room - concussions.

In all the years I've played this game, I've never acknowledged having them. Very few of my teammates have ever even actually uttered the word concussion. I can recall many times when I haven't remembered the last play or even the last series.

And I'm not the only one. This happens to players on every team, every week throughout the NFL season. Now, of course, it is hard to deny a situation like Stewart Bradley's from Sunday, when he attempted to get up and, instead, stumbled across the field. But often it's not that obvious. You lie on the ground for an extra 10 seconds, face to the sky, wondering how you got there or what just happened. It's a bad feeling, but in that moment, the alternative seems worse.

It's just imbedded in us - as men and football players - to play through pain. We are taught that tough guys win in football. But now the rules have changed, with the NFL implementing new policies and procedures on how teams must handle concussions.

If you tell someone you blacked out, you have to come out of the game. Players are competitors. We all know guys are waiting in the wings to unseat us, so to come out of a game is very hard. Most guys would just choose to play through it, thinking it can't be that bad.

Honestly, you can participate in camp for 3 months, but nothing can prepare you for full game speed. Although we have practiced all we can, for most, it takes a few regular-season games to get their feet under them. You cannot really simulate the intensity of a game in practice. The speed, the plays - it all just all seem to come faster on Sundays.

I don't think I have ever been in a game with so many injuries as we were Sunday against the Packers. At one point, we were down to the last five offensive linemen in uniform. If someone else were to go down, I think we would have had to put defensive tackle Mike Patterson in at guard. Although it is comical to think of Mike playing on the offensive side of the ball, we would have had no other feasible alternative.

The sound of Leonard Weaver shouting in pain and the sight of his motionless leg still weigh on my mind. When we put our helmets on and buckle our chin straps to step out on to the field, we all know this could be our last day.

Losing Leonard to a knee injury and Jamaal Jackson to a triceps injury in one game is just crazy. Both are vital parts of the offense and two of our most experienced players. It's sad it happened in Week 1, but our team goal remains the same, and that is to win. No matter what lineup changes occur, we have to keep working toward that goal. Luckily, Mike McGlynn took reps at center all throughout training camp, so he should be able to step in and perform well.

A lot of people ask when they see me out and about why I'm hobbling around like an 80-year-old. I'd have to say the worst part about Mondays is how much your body aches. And, it seems to hurt worse after a loss. Your neck, back . . . really, just all over body, soreness permeates.

My hands hurt the most the day after a game. I don't think fans realize how much players use their hands. When I look around at the guys in meetings, most cannot even stretch out their fingers, because they've been mangled after so many grabs and punches. It's just another part of the game. On a regular basis, I half-jokingly contemplate pulling a Ronnie Lott and just cutting them off.

The Lions will be another test. They have a whole new group of big-time players; it's not the same Detroit we have seen in the past. It will be another challenge that we will prepare for. Can't wait to get back out there.

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