COLUMNS

Let's play the blame game

Kyle Riviere
kriviere@weeklycitizen.com
Weekly Citizen Sports Editor Kyle Riviere.

Former Lions running back Jahvad Best is the latest former player to engage in the "blame game" with the NFL.

Just last week, he decided to sue the league, helmet maker Riddell and Easton-Bell Sports over the concussions that prematurely ended his career.

Best was widely-regarded as the top back in the nation heading into his junior year at California. However, his nasty string of concussions materialized late in the season when he suffered one in a game against Oregon State.

After hurdling into the end zone, his head slammed violently against the turf--resulting in a severe concussion that sidelined him for the rest of the year.

Because of the setback, Best slipped to the No. 30 pick in the first round of the NFL draft.

His rookie season with the Lions went incident free but in 2011, he sustained a concussion during the preseason, and he sustained another in an October matchup with the 49ers. That ended up being the last game he ever played.

He was placed on Injured Reserve for the rest of the year. In fact, the team was so concerned with his mental health that he remained on IR for the entirety of the 2012 season.

Being away from the game for so long, the Lions finally cut him last summer. Unfortunately for Best, no other teams were willing to bet on him after such a string of severe head injuries.

As doctors have proven, when someone sustains so many concussions, they become a ticking time-bomb. Any little hit can bring on another.

So, for all intensive purposes, Best's career is over, but he's not going out lightly. He has decided to sue the NFL and helmet company--seeking monetary damages for his fight with head injuries.

I'm all for him getting the worker's compensation owed to him by the Lions, but this latest trend of ex-players suing the NFL over their past concussions is getting old.

Best made in excess of $5 million while he was in the league and should be getting money from Detroit; everything else should be considered a quick money grab.

I understand older players suing the league. Yes, they all knew what they were signing up for and the occupational hazards that were present, but the league didn't protect them.

Their idea of concussion protocol was asking a guy how many fingers they were holding up. If he answered correctly, he was shuffled right back into the game.

Guys were right back to getting lit up just minutes after sustaining head injuries--causing their careers to be just a montage of concussion after concussion.

Not to mention, a lot of these former players from the '60s and '70s haven't been properly taken care of since they retired. The NFL hasn't been there to pay for their medical expenses post-retirement.

But Best wasn't part of that haphazard environment. He played from 2010-2012. The league has become more and more proactive in treating and preventing head injuries.

There is extensive protocol administered by team doctors that players must pass if they want to get back into the game.

Look at the Saints' Keenan Lewis. He suffered a mild concussion in the playoff game against the Eagles. He was ready to go back in, but he failed the concussion test. As a result, he was forced to watch angrily from the sideline as the team took away his helmet and prohibited him from making his return.

As far as Best goes, the Lions did a great job of protecting him. After his second concussion in 2011, they shut him down for the rest of the year. They then kept him out of action for the entire 2012 season.

When it comes to the helmet, I have to wonder, if it was so faulty, why didn't the rest of his teammates get concussion upon concussion--forcing them to retire?

But Best is not the first and certainly won't be the last to seek a money grab from the NFL amidst the hot topic of head injuries.

The mother of former Chief Jovan Belcher has filed a wrongful death suit against the organization. She claims that the team's negligence resulted in her son's brain being afflicted by degenerative conditions brought on by repeated head trauma.

What happened to her son was tragic and equally sad, and I feel horrible for her, but the fact that she is blaming the Chiefs for her son killing the mother of his child and then killing himself is sickening.

It's time for these lawsuits to stop. It's no longer 1975. At this point, we all know how serious head injuries are, and the NFL has gotten their act together.

They're doing everything they possibly can to treat these concussions and even prevent them from happening. At what point does personal responsibility finally come into play?