Preston: Playing football comes with known consequences

June 09, 2012|Mike Preston

There is always sadness when a former NFL player such as Dan Dierdorf limps around or there is news of another like Junior Seau committing suicide.

Some of these guys were our heroes, but sympathy is about as far as it goes for me.

On Thursday, lawyers representing more than 2,000 former NFL players filed a complaint against the league in U.S. District Court before Judge Anita B. Brody alleging the NFL "deliberately and fraudulently concealed from its players the link between football-related head impacts and long-term neurological injuries."

That's just so hard to comprehend, especially in the modern era of football.

From the time anyone starts playing football,  all players understand the risk of major injury, possible paralysis, head trauma or even death.

Other professions have serious consequences, too, like being a policeman, fireman or working for the Secret Service or the FBI. But no one forces anyone to go into those professions, just as no one forces anyone to play pro football.

In the NFL, it's high salary, high risk.

I understand the NFL Players Association trying to lobby the owners for more money to set up benefits for injured players, and I feel for the players and their families when these players are stricken at such young ages.

But these guys knew the risks and they decided to gamble. Some win and some lose, but more are losing now because the players have become bigger, faster and stronger, and the collisions more violent.

Positive vibes

You can tell it's early June because Ravens coach John Harbaugh is positive about everything — including his running backs, even though he has no veteran presence on the roster and Ray Rice is out because of contract negotiations.

"We have all but Ray [Rice], and they're all doing really well," Harbaugh said. "Anthony Allen has looked excellent. Damien Berry has looked excellent. They have worked really hard and are in great shape. They understand these tracks we are running. Bernard Pierce has done great, and Bobby Rainey from Western Kentucky has been excellent. We've got a group of running backs right now that we feel real good about."

Shoot, if you listen to Harbaugh, they're all Hall of Famers.

The hunch here is the Ravens still go out and find a veteran running back if the current bunch stinks it up after the second preseason game.

Young standouts

Based on offseason workouts and organized team activities, two young players who could have strong 2012 seasons for the Ravens are cornerback Jimmy Smith and defensive end Arthur Jones.

Despite the lockout last season, Jones, who is entering his third year, still had a strong offseason and worked hard to reshape his body. He was the backup to Cory Redding a year ago but has impressed the coaching staff so far. Jones, who is entering his fourth season, played in 14 games last season, including one start, and posted 18 tackles.

Smith, the 2011 first-round pick out of Colorado, is getting in his first full offseason under the Ravens and a chance to fully understand defensive schemes. He still gets caught peeking into the backfield, which happens to a lot of young cornerbacks, but he has made good progress from a year ago.

Suggs talk overblown

Does anybody care anymore about how Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs tore his Achilles tendon?

I don't care if he injured it playing basketball, shooting marbles or playing checkers. I just want to know how the rehabilitation is going and when or if he will return this season.

I'd rather him get injured playing basketball than becoming a couch potato the way he did in 2009 when he reported out of shape and had only 4.5 sacks.

OTA absences a joke

The only people who care about the no-shows at the Ravens' OTAs are the geeks who host sports-talk radio. They don't have much else to criticize now because the Orioles are playing fairly well and few listeners in Baltimore care about the NBA playoffs.

So, to stir things up, they'll criticize veterans like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed for not participating in these practice sessions, which aren't mandatory.

When you've played as many years as Lewis and Reed, missing OTAs isn't going to hurt. If Harbaugh was in his first year, then Lewis and Reed should be present, but only young guys like Smith and Jones really need to be at OTAs now.

There is nothing new defensive coordinator Dean Pees is going to teach that Lewis and Reed can't pick up in a hurry.

As for their absences hurting team chemistry, that's a joke, too. Over the years, when both players missed playing time, the Ravens still continued to play at a high level.

Caldwell, Flacco clicking

Joe Flacco and new quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell seem to be hitting it off quite well, and maybe it is because both have laid-back personalities.

When you watch Caldwell teach, you feel his confidence and energy. Plus, the addition of Caldwell gives coordinator Cam Cameron more time to work with the offense and help out in other areas.

Maybe Caldwell can raise Flacco's game to another level after working all those years with Peyton Manning, one of the NFL's all-time greats.

Wrapping up

•It's easy to tell why new receiver Jacoby Jones is no longer with the Texans. He didn't catch the ball consistently in Houston and hasn't caught it consistently yet in Baltimore.

Time will tell.•It was good to see rookie outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw lose 6 to 7 pounds during OTAs. There were times when he appeared to be winded, but he wasn't the only one (see offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie and rookie offensive guard Kelechi Osemele).

Fortunately, they have time to get in better shape before training camp starts.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

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