Hall of Famer Lem Barney said if he had his life to live all over again, he would never play football.
The former Lions cornerback said suffering from concussions is not worth the NFL career he enjoyed. Barney told a camp panel in Michigan Friday that football will be extinct in the next 20 years.
"People often ask me do I miss the game, do I wish I could still play with all the money they're making today. Even with all of that, I'd say ‘Heck no,’" Barney said. "The game is becoming more deadly today. It's a great game, and I think it's the greatest game if you like gladiators. It's the greatest game for yesteryear’s gladiators. But in the next 10 to 20 years, society will alleviate football altogether because of how strong it's becoming, how big it's becoming and the tenacity that it already is. And it's only going to get worse."
After being diagnosed with seven to eight concussions during his 11-year NFL career, Barney said he had to voice his criticism of the game because he would "feel really bad” if he didn't say anything. Barney, 67, is among more than 4,000 former players listed as plaintiffs in a lawsuit alleging the NFL didn't warn players about the risks of concussions.
"You look at guys like Bubba Smith that left us, Dave Duerson that left us, Junior Seau as of late, that are killing themselves because of the head injuries they had," Barney said. "You hear about guys who played in championship games, Pro Bowlers and Super Bowls, but you don't hear about the regular Joe who plays the game and has killed themselves. The game is that deadly today."
Barney's comments came as he sat on a panel composed of college football coaches including Michigan's Brady Hoke and Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio.
From the Free Press:
... All who appeared frozen as Barney attacked their profession.
Both tried to be respectful to Barney while pointing out that there's known risk in the game. Dantonio and Hoke emphasized proper tackling and safety at the camp. Dantonio even presented a video on technique to the 600 or so campers.