After an injury like the one on Sunday, the atmosphere in the huddle changes. The intensity rises a few notches. We immediately go into protective mode for our teammates. Even though these type of injuries are unavoidable for the most part, it still makes you angry to see a teammate get hurt.
I've been asked a lot over the past few days whether and how this type of situation can be avoided, but there isn't a clear-cut answer. It is our job in football to tackle or hit someone as hard as we can. That is what we are taught as young boys.
You wear a helmet for protection, and you wear shoulder pads to hit. As fast as the game is these days, you don't always have time to think what body part you are going to hit with or how that hit might affect your opponent.
It's what we sign up for. We know the deal. Sure, you can fine players for helmet-to-helmet hits, but it is hard for guys to change direction midair or change their hitting style in one season. At that moment, you are not even thinking about the consequences. You can't play a football game thinking about getting fined. It just doesn't work that way.
Players have grown up watching such guys as Ronnie Lott, John Lynch and Ray Lewis demolish their opponents. We were kids looking up to guys who made big hits like that, and they are glorified in highlight reels in the meeting rooms and on television. And with some of those big hits, they used their helmets.
I think the NFL is doing all it can to protect players from injury. The only other thing it can do aside from fines is to suspend players for a game, which, in my opinion, is too harsh, especially when most of these hits are not intentional.
I'm sure the NFL will review hundreds of plays from the past, and I hope it finds the best way to establish a system of fines that is fair and consistent. With medical advancements, in the years to come, it will be our brains they study.
I admit, it is weird to read about former athletes who have committed suicide or gone through severe depression and show signs of dementia at age 40, who all tested positive for brain injuries and trauma from playing football.
For my part, all I can do is go out there and be a fierce competitor, do the best I can to be safe, play fair and protect myself to the best of my abilities.
I already have committed to donating my brain to Boston University Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy. At least I can help the next generation of football players by being a case study for those who follow me into this game we all love so much.
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. Winston will answer the best questions in upcoming columns.