While I've been known to wax poetically at times over the 'beautiful violence' of the NFL I also understand why the league is making moves to protect players from the game they love. Do they sign up for it willingly? Absolutely, but that doesn't mean the league doesn't have a tacit responsibility to respect their former stars by trying to protect them now.
It's why I sit here with a heavy heart to bring you Darin Gantt's story this evening expounding from Nathan Fenno's piece for the Washington Times in which he reveals that former Panthers star RB Stephen Davis is experiencing memory loss as a result of his days as a player, at the tragically young age of 38.
Gaps began appearing in the 38-year-old's short-term memory in the previous year and a half. Chats with his wife, DeeDee, from a few minutes before, slipped away. He forgot activities with their four children. Same with paying bills.
This is why the NFL are making the moves now to protect players. This is why it's important for the league to look into post-concussive syndrome. This is why fans should be measured, and tolerant before casually throwing out phrases like the NFL is being 'ruined' as a result of trying to keep players safe.
More after the jump
As a bruising North-South back, Davis saw the brunt of the defense's abuse on a consistent level. Despite appearing in just 29 games for the Panthers he amassed an astonishing 522 carries over his three years in Charlotte. An instrumental cog in Carolina's Superbowl run, Davis is now left to shoulder the burden of being a workhorse, while the team has moved on.
Looking at the results and they're not that good," Davis said in a phone interview Wednesday from Columbia, S.C. "I need to get special treatment, further treatment to try and get it taken care of.
"A lot of things scare me a whole lot, and it bothers me because there isn't no telling what day I'll forget everything."
This isn't a case where we can equate the issue with antiquated leather helmets, and facemask free football-- Davis hung up his cleats just six years ago, as he signed with the Panthers so he could retire as a member of the organization. There is a human cost to this game we all love, and sadly now we're seeing the fruit of seeds planted years ago. It's all very well to complain about the denigration of the league, or the encroachment of some sort of skewed sanctity on what the NFL 'should be', but it's times like this we could all use a wake-up call and understand what is at stake.
"Football is a contact sport. We all know that. It has its consequences. But the thing is that we were put in situations where if you're not on the field, you won't make this team."
This is the crux of everything the NFL has been pushing, even if some of the moves lately have appeared heavy handed. These moves have to be made not only to protect the legacies of the players we so admire, but to protect the players themselves from the realities of a brutal game.
The staff of Cat Scratch Reader send our thoughts, prayers, and good will to Stephen Davis at this time, and hope that his diagnosis isn't as bleak as it appears.