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Brett Favre, most well known as the quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, says 20 years of NFL football took a toll on him.
During a radio interview, Favre said he can’t remember his daughter playing youth soccer one summer and the loss of that memory scared him.
Favre is 44 years old and a grandfather, and he made the comments after reports that teams wanted him to come out of retirement.
What does Favre’s admission portend for the NFL, which has only recently begun to implement rules that make the sport safer — such as disallowing players who are concussed from returning to play and outlawing head-to-head hits.
“I think it means that this is something that is not going away, the discussion over head trauma,” Peter King, a longtime NFL reporter who writes for Sports Illustrated tells Here & Now’s Robin Young. “If one of the biggest stars in NFL history, Brett Favre, is 44 and cannot remember wide swaths of his life, what’s he going to be like at 54? I’d like high school and college athletes to listen to that interview with Favre. You have to manage how you’re hit.”
ROBIN YOUNG, HOST:
It's HERE AND NOW. Brett Favre played quarterback in the NFL for 20 years, started more than 300 consecutive games. He appeared in that film "Something About Mary." The characters pronounced his name F-F-Farve(ph). He's 44, but teams have been begging him to come out retirement, which probably would have meant millions in income for him.
But last night in a pretty stunning radio interview, he explained why he can't. He's got severe memory loss.
BRETT FAVRE: I don't remember my daughter playing soccer, youth soccer, one summer. That's a little bit scary to me. For the first time in 44 years, that kind of put a little fear in me.
YOUNG: Brett Favre on Sports Talk 570 in Washington. Peter King is senior writer for Sports Illustrated, longtime reporter on the NFL. Peter, what does it mean that Brett Favre said these things?
PETER KING: I think, Robin, it means that this is something that is not going away. The discussion, the debate over head trauma, if one of the biggest stars in NFL history, Brett Favre, is 44 years old and cannot remember wide swaths of his life, and he's 44, what's he going to be like at 54.
And so I think that all of the caution and all of the education that people are experiencing right now about head trauma in the NFL, so many people have said enough of it. Concentrate on the games, you know, talk about the games. Well, we do talk about the games, but we also have to make them conscious that, you know, that football is an extraordinarily dangerous game, and you take your own health into your own hands when you play the game.
YOUNG: Well, we've spoken to you about this before. You wrote that you blamed yourself, in part, for Junior Seau's suicide. This was the former all-pro linebacker who killed himself last year. And you said - you wrote about how tough he was, how he played in pain.
KING: We basically glorify these people for being so tough. When that happened, I just said I'm not going to - I'm going to write about guys' toughness, no question about it, but I'm also going to ask the question: is this a very smart thing both for him to be doing and for us to be glorifying.
YOUNG: Well, Brett Favre had the same reputation.
KING: No question about it, and he was the gunslinger who played all those games in a row. He never missed games. He was superhuman. And I thought, you know, and he has said this in the last few months several times, he was tired of getting hit. He was just tired of the pain.
I'd like high school and college athletes to listen to that interview with Favre, and for him to say he's 44 years old, and he's taken all these hits, you have to manage how often you get hit. We have a story on our site this week about the future of the helmet, and there is a movement right now, and there is science right now to put sensors in helmets to determine how many times and with what force and frequency players get hit, and once they get hit a certain amount, then you start looking for memory loss and brain trauma.
And that is, you know, on the drawing board right now in science with people who are studying the NFL.
YOUNG: Yeah, but when does it get on the field? I mean, we've seen a couple of things in play this season that were implemented because of concerns about head injuries and concussions, but one of the reasons the St. Louis Rams are desperate for a quarterback and reaching out to people like Favre is because their starter, Sam Bradford, is injured and out for the season, and it seems to some watchers here there's a higher number of injuries in the NFL this year.
KING: Anytime you get a spate of injuries the way you do last weekend, that's really about the only times that fans say hey, what's going on in this game. I think fans have to be more cognizant of it 52 weeks a year.
YOUNG: Well, and Peter, just to be clear because we always get letters from people saying what are you going to do, make it touch football, I mean, you've talked about sensors in helmets. What else? How should the game change?
KING: The game should change with what the NFL is doing right now. They're putting independent neurologists on both sidelines. If a player comes off the field, and he doesn't look right, that independent neurologist has the power to say this guy's not going back in.
YOUNG: Well, and it's trickling down. At high schools, a lot of high schools now, one hit, you're out, and you don't come back.
KING: I had a high school athlete who just graduated from high school tell me last week he and his coach basically hid concussions from the team trainer because if they told the trainer, the trainer would make this player sit out for two weeks, and he didn't want to sit out.
That's the mentality that has to change in football across America. Players have to admit when they have concussions, and they have to sit when they have them.
YOUNG: Well, and coaches, too. Peter King, senior writer for Sports Illustrated, thanks so much.
KING: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.