Calvin Johnson, one of the most prolific wide receivers in NFL history, retired this off-season. He was just 30 years old, becoming the latest NFL player to call it quits in the midst of or even before their prime.
In his first major interview since retiring, Johnson opened up to ESPN’s Michael Smith about the reasons he hung up his cleats—and they’re not pretty. He said there were mornings when he could barely walk after getting out of bed. He said his fingers had become so screwed up that it was becoming almost too painful to catch a football.
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But his most disconcerting comments dealt with concussions. Johnson said he couldn’t put a number on how many he’d had over his nine-year career, saying only that he’d had his “fair share.” But when asked how often he thought concussions took place during an NFL game, his answer was disturbing.
“Concussions happen,” Johnson said. “If not on every play, then they happen like every other, every third play, you know. With all the helmet contact, guys hitting the ground, heads hitting ground. It’s simply when your brain touches your skull from the movement or the inertia, man. It’s simple to get a concussion.”
Johnson’s comments are eye-opening about the things players have to do just to get themselves out of bed in the morning, but the growing body of information we have on concussions, and their frequency, continues to be the game of football’s biggest threat.