February 2, 2007

Belichick Under Fire...

I'm sure not how much attention this will get today, as it is sort of eclipsed by the looming Super Sunday, but I was intrigued by a report on ESPN.com regarding a former Pats LB who is accusing Bill Belichick of contributing to (indirectly) his permanent physical and mental problems.

As a disclaimer, I do think the NFL should be doing more for it's former players. Mike Webster, long time Steelers Center is a prime example of what we should avoid. However, I can't help but think that these guys know what they are getting into when they sign up to play in the NFL. Most have played for years through Pop Warner, High School, College, so they ought to be aware of the risks as well as the rewards.

Keeping in line with this, I think it would be a little bit ludicrous (which is exactly what I think this case is) for a former player to accuse a coach 5 years later of contributing to his permanent injury. Nevertheless, Ted Johnson, former Pats LB and member of the illustrious Pats Super Bowl teams, did just that according to a story in today's New York Times (also on ESPN.com)

According to Johnson, he had suffered a concussion in one of the Pats 2002 preseason games and this was further compounded by a second concussion that was the result of Bellichick making him participate in full contact drills the following week. I mean there's a lot more to it than that, and you can read the story for full detail, but in essence that was the situation. Technically, he said he felt pressured by Belichick, who never actually told him to do anything. It was all trainers that were telling him to participate. In any case, my biggest problem with all this is that he says his major concern is depression. BUT, and he openly admits this contributed, he is in the middle of a divorce, was charged with domestic assault back last summer, and has been taking Adderall for an undetermined amount of time in doses two to three times what is recommended.

Allow me to pick this apart for you.

1. The biggest problem out of this entire story is the drug use. Now, I have taken Adderall in the past for ADHD, the affliction it is designed to counteract. Adderall is a dangerous drug. I myself willfully declined taking it anymore a couple years back after I had serious problems with depression and other mental difficulties. Not only is it addictive (in that you think you need it to function), when the drug wears off, you almost become more aggressive and depressed than you would be had you not taken it at all. So I would imagine someone who is abusing it would exhibit these tendencies two to three times worse than they would without it.
2. He was charged with domestic assault. The guy obviously has some problems other than football injuries. He seems mentally unstable. So frankly, anything he says I find hard to believe. It seems there are ulterior motives behind his accusations. Why now? you might ask. Well Johnson claims it is because he read about the late Andre Waters recently and thought it was time to come forward. Well, usually it doesn't work like that. Sounds to me more like someone (an ambitious lawyer) got wind of his troubles and convinced him he could get something out of it. Although I can't obviously say that with any certainty and I mean it in no demeaning way whatsoever.
3. He is getting divorced. This just adds fuel to the fire. Since he is going through a tough time, why not try and blame someone else to take the focus off of him. Sure, nobody wants to think it's their own fault things are wrong with them. But at the end of the day, he put himself on the practice field. He allowed himself to get hit during drills. He kept mum for the past 5 years. He drove his wife to a divorce through whatever actions in question. There has to be a certain amount of culpability here.
Also weird is the fact that back in December he was quoted as saying he would have come back to play for the Pats had they called.

All that said, this is a sad situation, reminiscent of Barret Robbins. The guy obviously is crying out for some help. So for his sake and the sake of many other retired players who end up with these types of problems, I hope it gets addressed.

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