How Does It Feel?

NFL players--who are getting injured at an alarming rate (page 60)--take you inside their hard-rocked world
October 10, 2004

"Some of the textbook big hits look worse than they are. If you see it coming, you adjust your body to make it less violent. What really hurts is somebody who's 300 pounds lying on you. Sometimes after a big hit you'll see everything in black and white. Once against New Orleans, I got hit so hard by one of their big guys that I came up screaming--not at anyone, but just trying to shake it off. Sometimes you don't know what's going on. You check if everything is still functioning and try to regain your composure to run the next play. If you can't continue, you don't want to get up because you want to give the guy on the sideline the chance to warm up." PATRICK RAMSEY, QB, REDSKINS

"It's like a car wreck because however long the hit lasts there's a period of time when you're out of control. You don't know where you're going--if you're going to crack your head on the ground or if you're going to knock into somebody. You tighten up, like being in a car accident, when you grip the door handle and just hang on. Your eyes close, you go into a fetal position as best you can. When it's over, you do a mental inventory of your body parts, if you can, and you relive what happened a split second ago. Did my knee break? Did my leg break? Did my back break? If it's serious, you know immediately." STEVE TASKER, FORMER WR, BILLS

"Because of my small size [5'10"] I have to get down in a hurry when I know I'm going to get hit. Usually my body is loose and relaxed, and my focus is up the field. When someone is going to hit you, you let your body go. You tuck one shoulder. Sometimes I'll turn and take the blow on my face mask rather than on my shoulder because when you have 350 pounds driving your shoulder into the ground, something is going to give. I trust the helmet more than I do my shoulder." DOUG FLUTIE, QB CHARGERS

"I've had ones where I got the wind totally knocked out of me, and I thought, I've got to get up; don't let them see that I'm hurt. But then it's, O.K., wait, never mind, forget that. When you get your bell rung the first few times, especially early in the season, you get blurry vision, and it lasts for maybe 10 or 15 minutes, but it's not a big deal. Guys talk about that as "getting their cobwebs cleared." Once I get that blurry vision a couple of times, though, I'm fine. I play through it." DREW BENNETT, WR, TITANS

"It's the grazing ones that hurt the most. When you're coming across the middle and someone clips you--chicken-bones you--and then you're parallel to the ground and then you hit the ground hard, you're like, Gol-ly! Those big, head-to-head, solid ones, when they get a good shot on you, are O.K. as long as you catch the ball. Those make you feel alive, get you into the game. It's weird like that. When some 260-pound guy hits you dead-on, you get fired up. Not to be masochistic, but as long as it's clean, it's fun." WAYNE CHREBET, WR, JETS

"It all depends upon how you get hit. Sometimes it feels like one side of your body is numb for a minute, and sometimes it's kind of like falling off a bicycle--you get hit and you just bounce right back up. My rookie year I got hit by Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher on a screen play. He came through and cleaned my clock. From my neck down I didn't have any feeling for a few seconds. I forgot where I was. It was terrible. I had to lie there for a little while, wait for my feeling to come back. When I did get up, my head was spinning. He was like, "Welcome to the NFL, rookie." MICHAEL BENNETT, RB, VIKINGS