Alex Smith: I Had a Concussion…. and I Lose My Job Over It?

ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown host Chris Berman and analysts Cris Carter, Mike Ditka, Tom Jackson and Keyshawn Johnson previewed today’s NFL action with Suzy Kolber, analysts Merril Hoge and Ron Jaworski and NFL Insiders Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter. Some excerpts from today’s show:

On the Kansas City Chiefs tragedy and what it will be like for the team to play today…

Jackson: “I think it’s a difficult situation, but you have to remember that the football team acts as sort-of a second family for each other, so you get the love and support of the guys in that locker room. The three hours that they’ll spend on the field will be somewhat of a respite… but I think we’re remiss if we don’t do exactly what you just said. Remember that Jovan Belcher, and we hear about what a great teammate he was and how close some of the guys were to him. He is in fact a guy who is a murderer, who has taken the life of Kasandra Perkins as a new mom and left a little girl without her parents. So, you know, as we look at the outpouring of all of the sympathy that will go toward Jovan Belcher today, I would ask people to remember Kasandra Perkins, this 22-year-old new mom who lost her life to gun violence and you know, hopefully we’ll find ways to do something about that so it doesn’t happen so much in the future.”  

Ditka: “I don’t think anybody can imagine how tough this is on Romeo Crennel. He’s a great man, I mean, and I think he’ll handle it properly. I learned a long time ago – it might seem a little cruel – but time waits for no one, and they got to pick up the pieces and move forward. That’s all they can do.”

Johnson: “As a former player and being in the locker room and being around your teammates all the time, when you look to that locker that could potentially be next to you or across from you and he’s not there, it’s going to be tough.”

Carter: “I’ve had a couple teammates die. And the one thing – the National Football League is starting to become experts at crisis management. And I believe it’s great that we have the resources, but we are confronted with this issue. It’s a national problem. It’s also, this is the modern-day athlete. This is the 21st-century athlete. Boom, since 1987, we’ve had 15 NFL players commit suicide. Since 2010, we have had seven. Alright. I mean, not only is it a violent game, but we are inflicting violence on society. You know, and it’s time for us to reach out and get help. We have all the resources as a player available to us. It’s time for us to start being more accountable to one another. Talk to each other. Get the help that you might need… we do have an issue in the National Football League.” 

More on the Kansas City Chiefs tragedy…

Jackson: “We as NFL players don’t spend a lot of time talking about what’s going on underneath emotionally. You know, start feeling out your friends, your teammates; find out what’s going on with them. Prevent these kind of things.”   

Carter: “And the kids should know: this is not the best option that you have. And it’s sad that he got to that point yesterday that he thought that that was the best option that he had in his life.” 

On the decision to play the game following the Kansas City Chiefs tragedy…

Carter: “One of my best friends, my roommate, Jerome Brown, died in a car accident. Philadelphia Eagle, great player, great person. I also had 9/11. I was in the League when 9/11, and I didn’t think we should play. And we didn’t play. Then I also had Korey Stringer – who got dressed in a locker next to me, went on the practice field and died. And I didn’t think we could play. My football team went from the NFC Championship to we were 5-11. So at some point, something has to happen where life is bigger than football. And I don’t think they should play today ‘cause I don’t think the guys emotionally know what they’re dealing with… when they get off that football field that problem is still there.”

On the suspensions facing the Seattle Seahawks…

Jackson: “(Brandon) Browner and (Richard) Sherman are atypical of most corners in the National Football League… you take those two guys away, you’re going to open up the passing game to almost every NFL quarterback in the National Football League.”

Carter: “They have the unique ability — most DBs can’t catch the football – in the NFL the last two seasons they’re number three and four as far as interceptions. So that productivity, it can’t be replaced.”

Hoge conducted an interview with Ndamukong Suh of the Detroit Lions, which aired during today’s show. Excerpts from Suh:

  • On the on-field incident last Thanksgiving vs. the Green Bay Packers and how it changed him: “That play in my opinion is something that I made a horrible mistake. And I hurt my team. And I will forever be sorry about it… I think it’s changed me for the better. To be honest with you, it’s been something that’s eye-opening. It’s made me focus in and understand what’s most important, and that’s team first. I’m a selfless player.”
  • On his reaction to Matt Schaub of the Houston Texans, who said he would not want Suh as a teammate: “It’s something that, it’s his opinion. I’m fortunate and lucky enough that I’m a Detroit Lion… I feel that if I did have an opportunity, that maybe that he’d change his mind.”
  • On the on-field incident Thanksgiving Day vs. the Texans and if he regrets it: “Football is a very violent sport. And it’s something, a lot of things happen all the time throughout many, many different games. There’s a lot of things that happened that particular weekend. And in that particular play, I mean, I had honestly no control of what took place because I was being pulled down. And like I said, it’s in appeals, and I can’t really speak much more about it.”
  • On his reputation as a ‘dirty player’: “Honestly I don’t believe it’s fair. A reputation, in my opinion, is something that’s always evolving, and you can’t let one particular instance, or one particular act, or even one particular year to say this is this person’s reputation. You gotta factor in their whole career and their whole extension of what they’ve come from and what they’ve done and really take the facts, don’t just take other people’s opinions.” 
  • On the difference between physical and dirty: “I think there’s a huge line in physical and dirty… dirty is just something where you’re intentionally trying to hurt somebody, you’re trying to end somebody’s career. And I’ve never wanted that for myself. And I’ve never wanted to do that for anybody else because that’s not in my hands. I don’t want to have that on my hands. And there’s no reason for it. You’re not going to gain anything from it. It’s not going to help you win a game. It’s not going to help you get a Super Bowl.”

More on Hoge’s interview with Ndamukong Suh…

Jackson: “Let me join the ranks of the guys that want him on my team… the best defensive tackle that I have ever seen play football was Mean Joe Greene. He did not get that name by being nice in the trenches. He was a guy who walked a fine line.”

Ditka: “Perception is not reality. That’s a fact. Reality is reality. I love the kid. I mean, I’d love to have him on my football team. The only thing I’m saying is the reputation he’s getting, it can be of no benefit to him. None. He can’t go forward with this reputation. It’s going to hurt him in every sense.”

Carter: “If he is asking for a clean slate, he needs to realize we are watching every play. I’m willing to give you the clean slate, but he can’t be involved in any altercations at all.”

On the San Francisco 49ers quarterback situation…

Ditka: “The title is ‘coach’. It could be CEO, Commander in Chief, boss, whatever you want to call it. That’s his job. Now, it’s his right to make that decision. He’s making this decision for the best interest of the San Francisco 49ers.”

Jackson: “This is what I think what Alex (Smith) meant when he said, ‘The only thing I did to lose my job was to report that I had a concussion.’ What are we encouraging in the National Football League if in fact I report my injury and while I am injured – and Alex would tell you, playing great, and I would state statistically and where that team is playing great – and I lose my job over it? What kind of bigger issue does that become, especially at that position?”