It was really only a matter of time before this happened. Concussion has been a controversial film since long before the movie came out. But now that it has been released, it’s available for all to see -- and to question the safety of those who play in the National Football League every season. Now a current player has written an op-ed in which he publicly questions whether the NFL actually has the best interests of its players or not.
D'Brickashaw Ferguson has been an offensive tackle for the New York Jets since 2006. In a column written for SI.com, Ferguson discusses his experience both watching the new Will Smith film as well as reading the book on which the movie is based and his current feeling regarding both the league he plays for and the game as a whole now that he has a new understanding of the dangers that are possible. Ferguson says that his understanding, prior to the film, was that concussions, and the aftereffects that can be caused by them, were much more likely in players that received bigger hits that they were not prepared for (like wide receivers), and that people in his position on the line were safer. He now understands this is not the case.
As I’ve come to find out, it isn’t just the large collisions that can be problematic, but rather the smaller collisions that don’t even amount to concussions but happen far more frequently, that are the real catalysts leading to CTE. Mike Webster was believed to have participated in about 25,000 violent collisions. After learning all of this, I feel a bit betrayed by the people or committees put in place by the league who did not have my best interests at heart.
Many of the film’s moments were very personal for Ferguson. One of the Jets’ team doctors was one of the people that was directly involved in trying to discredit the research that Dr. Bennet Omalu, the character played by Will Smith, was trying to get the league to recognize. Ferguson also played against Junior Seau, a Hall of Fame lineman who committed suicide in 2012 and was later found to have suffered from the chronic traumatic encephalopathy which Omalu discovered.
We fully expect more and more players to speak out over time as many of them take the time to see Concussion. Sony has offered free admission to members of the NFL Player’s Association throughout the theatrical run of the film. This is in addition to a number of free screenings that were held for players prior to the film’s release.
D'Brickashaw Ferguson does point out that steps have been taken in recent years to try and protect the health and safety of players, though he gives most of the credit to the Player’s Association’s work, and the negotiations that went into the most recent collective bargaining agreement.
D’Brickashaw Ferguson says that he wouldn’t do anything differently himself, but he does seriously question whether he would let his child pursue a career in football after learning what he has. As Will Smith himself has said, this knowledge is something you "can’t not see" and as more people see it, it may have a long-term impact on the game.