The 36-year-old former wide receiver appreciates his time in the NFL but may be paying for the hits he took, causing him to fear what the future might hold.

DAN PATRICK: What was the reaction to the article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, where you were quoted as saying that if you could go back, you wouldn't play football?

ANTWAAN RANDLE EL: The article is real. But I want people to realize that I'm in no way dying, keeling over, struggling to get around or anything like that. If you look at the article, I expressed that sometimes I have these pains [in my legs] when it comes to going up and down the stairs. Sometimes I have to put two feet on each step going down the stairs because of the pain in my knees, ankles and feet. And the memory [loss] thing, that could also be because I have six kids. I have a lot going on. I helped to start a high school [Virginia Academy in Ashburn, Va., where he is an athletic director]. But because I played football, some of this memory loss gives me concern that [it] came from some of the hits I took.

DP: Did you hide injuries when you were playing?

ARE: I played injured. That's part of it. Having the knowledge that I have now, I wouldn't have. When I got dinged and I knew I was concussed, I should have stepped out of the game. That's one thing I want to teach the young folks—the Pop Warner, high school and college kids—and let them know that if you get nicked up, it's O.K. to come out.

DP: Was it worth it?

ARE: I look back on the things I experienced—winning the Super Bowl [with the Steelers in 2006] and being compensated the way that I was for nine seasons [a total of $22.3 million in salary]—it certainly has given me this idea that playing football has been worth it. But when I look at the pain I experience now, I always think, Could I have taken another path? [Randle El, an outfielder, was the Cubs' 14th-round pick in 1997.]

DP: The Broncos recently accused your former quarterback Ben Roethlisberger of playing up his injuries.

ARE: Nonsense. When Ben is injured, he's injured. He's not going to fabricate any injuries. He's a guy I saw work through injuries and play extremely well. We got to one point where we'd say, "Ben, you play better when you're hurt."

DP: What about your comment that football might not exist 20 or 25 years from now?

ARE: You have so many kids on the younger level stepping away from the contact and saying they want to play flag football or not play football at all. [Participation] will dissipate if there's not some better teaching in terms of safety.



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