John Carlson was finally starting to click in the Vikings offense. The maligned tight end was finally starting to earn his money. Then, for a guy who’s suffered more than his share of setbacks, another career-interrupting injury. Another concussion, the fifth of his college and pro football career.
After two weeks on the shelf, it was looking earlier this week like Carlson might finally be ready to return to the playing field. But mid-week he experienced more concussion symptoms and the Vikings shut him down. Now it is looking like he will miss yet another game.
Once upon a time, there would have been no question about Carlson playing. But the NFL is different now. There is much more awareness about the impact of head injuries. The league takes these matters much more seriously and the players take them more seriously as well.
John Carlson is not just facing another week on the bench, he is facing the potential end of his career. The R-word is now coming up in conversations between Carlson and his family.
“That’s something that my wife and I will consider,” Carlson said while discussing his present and future. “After every season it’s an evaluation period because of the nature of our business. Players move around, players get cut, coaches get fired, things happen. So in that sense, every year is an evaluation period and this year will be no different. And the concussion part of it will be in that conversation.”
Carlson has suffered five concussions that he knows about, two in college and three in the pros. The cumulative effect of such head injuries, as we’ve learned, can be devastating. The list of players who’ve suffered debilitating neurological damage just grows and grows.
The legendary Tony Dorsett has revealed that he is suffering from CTE, a disease linked to concussions. It’s the same disease that likely drove Junior Seau to suicide. Ryan Freel, a baseball player, showed signs of CTE before his suicide two years ago.
Even if guys don’t develop the most serious symptoms, they still feel the effects. Brett Favre recently described his own memory loss issues after taking multiple shots to the head during his career. Ex-Viking Gary Larsen spoke about it too.
Carlson himself has yet to experience such symptoms, but he knows the stories and knows the dangers. “I know some former players that played for 15 years that are in their 80s,” he said. “And we all know of guys that have degenerative brain disorders in their 40s. It’s a scary thing, but it’s one of the risks that we take playing football.”
Having heard all the horror stories, it would be hard to blame John Carlson if he decided to hang it up.