And for a moment he thought: I can lie*, and they'll let me play.
"So I thought about it,'' he told me, driving home from practice Wednesday evening. "And I had to say to myself, 'What are you doing! What are you thinking!' First, it's not my character to lie. That's not me. But it's also in this case just not the right thing to do. I have seven kids, a wife. A life. I want to win as much as anyone. But at the end of the day, you have to be able to take a step back and realize what you're talking about. It's a football game, versus the rest of your life.''
He told the doctors about his sore neck, a leftover from taking a blow to the head seven days earlier in St. Louis, and about the light sensitivity, which they, and he, knew could be a remnant from a minor concussion. They told him he wasn't playing. The neck's fine now, and any headaches are gone, but there's still sensitivity to light. Not as bad as it was, but it's there, and though he thinks he'll play Sunday night in one of the coolest football games of the year -- Battle of the Football Geezers, 40-year-old
Warner had just heard about the league's
"There's no question I was self-conscious about it,'' Warner said. "I can't say definitively that guys were thinking that, but I noticed a few things. Maybe a coach didn't talk to me the same way, or a player walked by without talking to me. We're conditioned to think one game can mean everything. So you do wonder, yeah. You wonder if they're thinking, 'Yeah, he wimped out on us. Yeah, he wasn't tough enough. Yeah, he wouldn't come to battle with us.' ''
Three weeks ago, Cardinal special-teamer
"If we lie,'' said Warner, "it's not going to work. Players have to be honest, organizations have to be honest, for this to work over the long haul. We're so conditioned to think the toughest, most courageous player plays with an injury like that. What I found out is the most courageous player is the one willing to tell the truth. Do you know how hard it is to say, 'I don't know if I'm ready?' We're conditioned to play hurt. I've played injured in my career. As long as you can be out there, any way you can be out there, you play. Everybody's going to appreciate it, and everyone will talk about how tough you are. It takes a lot to be able to step away and say, 'It's just a game.' People get fired for not winning. Players get cut.
"I am convinced players have to be continually protected from themselves.
"Look, I'm toward the end of my career. I don't think about one more game defining me, or them throwing me out. I'm thinking about the 50 years with my family after this part of my life. Football takes a huge backseat. I'm going to have 12, 13 years in this game, and 70 out of it. When I think about it that way, it makes the decision a little easier.''
Warner was told last week that the light sensitivity he felt was related to the blow he took in St. Louis, and doctors told him symptoms could persist for a few weeks. "My injury is very minor,'' he said. "Beyond the symptoms, they really don't know what it means. They don't feel if I go back on the field I'm taking a risk, but no one can guarantee it. No one knows what it would mean if I took another hit this week. So that's the gray area. What would another hit mean 10 years down the road? And no one can answer that question.''
He still has some sensitivity to light, but he said headaches and the neck pain are gone. He's splitting practice snaps with backup
It's the same voice scores of players are going to hear every week in the NFL from this day forward ... if players are honest with themselves, and honest with team doctors.
"I don't know,'' Warner said. "I am moving forward like I'm going to play. But I go back and forth. We'll decide late in the week. I don't know.''
Offensively, the Jets are a fifties football team. In the wake of the 19-13 win over the Bills in Toronto last night, the Jets are doing something very rare in recent NFL history: contending for the playoffs with more rushing yards than passing yards. Last night, they made the Bills regret ever letting nose man
Let's see: Which stat is more important? That Johnson, the NFL rushing leader, had a forgettable nine-carry, 34-yard game -- his worst of the season -- against the Colts in their first meeting this year? Or that he's rushed for 228, 135, 132, 151 and 154 yards in the past five weeks? The heat will be on Johnson to keep the clock moving and keep the possessions long for the Titans. It's not a prescription for automatic victory to keep the ball out of