GREEN BAY, Wis. -- To Aaron Rodgers, the biggest challenge the NFL faces in dealing with concussions is the players themselves, with their play-through-the-pain mentality -- even now, with all the information about the dangers of head injuries.
“The biggest obstacle, I think, would be the mindset of players,” the Green Bay Packers quarterback said in an interview with Bill Simmons on HBO’s “Any Given Wednesday,” taped earlier in the week. “They have people who watch every player, there’s one up in the booth and then we have a number of doctors on the sidelines watching concussions. The helmets and the pads are as safe as I think you can possibly get them at this point.
“But players feeling comfortable self-monitoring [is still an issue]. And, if you have one, telling somebody about it.”
Asked later in the interview if he thought the league was behind the curve on the dangers of concussions, Rodgers replied in part, “Everything’s kind of a little bit behind when it deals with money. And that’s the driver in our sport. Unfortunately, we need to get out in front of it and do more.”
As an example of players not reporting their concussions, Rodgers cited retired Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson, who in an interview with ESPN’s Michael Smith on E:60 said earlier this month that “I definitely had my fair share” of concussions that he didn’t report.
"When you’re competitive the last thing you want to do is come out of a game, regardless of what kind of injury it is -- whether it’s an ankle, a knee, a rib or a head injury," Rodgers told Simmons. "You know that the head injury is obviously more dangerous, but it’s that mindset of wanting to play through those things and until that mindset changes, there’s going to be guys like Calvin who come out and say, 'Yeah, I played through a lot of concussions.'"
Rodgers has endured two reported concussions, both during the 2010 season.
He suffered the first on a helmet-to-helmet hit on his final pass of an overtime loss at Washington in Week 5. Rodgers absorbed a helmet-to-helmet hit on a throw that was intercepted by LaRon Landry, setting up the Redskins' game-winning field goal. Rodgers told Simmons that after the collision, “one eye went metallic. I could only see out of my right eye. … It was like metallic, it was silver metallic.”
Rodgers was able to play the following week, although it’s unclear whether he would have gone back into the game had the Packers' defense held and gotten the ball back to the offense.
Rodgers, who would go on to lead the Packers to the Super Bowl XLV title that season, suffered his second concussion on a scramble against Detroit in Week 14. He missed the following week’s game at New England but returned to lead the Packers to a pair of victories to close out the regular season and clinch the final NFC playoff spot.
“The second one, I was knocked out for a split second and then I got up and my chinstrap was across my nose and you could see Gene Steratore, one of my favorite referees, and he kind of comes over to me and he's like, 'Hey, you OK?' And I don’t remember this, but I’m like, 'Yeah, I’m fine, I’m fine,'" Rodgers recounted. "So there was a timeout called, I went over to the sideline, I waved off [the medical staff], 'I’m good, I’m good.'
“It’s kind of what’s just built into you. And then I went back out there for a couple plays, I couldn’t call the plays and we ended up getting me out of there.”
Rodgers said he and coach Mike McCarthy still joke about one of the plays he stayed in for, a play-action fake on which he had a receiver wide-open for a touchdown.
“The only thing I remember from that sequence, I was under center and I didn’t know if it was a run or a pass,” Rodgers said. “Mike and I laugh about this [now]. It’s not funny to play through a concussion -- it’s not safe, I wouldn’t recommend it -- [but] we laugh because it was a hard play fake to the right and I had the post [receiver] wide-open for a touchdown. But I didn’t know if it was a run or a pass, so I kind of moved backward, and then held it and got sacked and that was it. I came out of the game.”
Asked by Simmons if he believes the concussion problem will ever be solved, Rodgers pivoted the conversation to the need to address treatment of players who’ve suffered multiple concussions. Rodgers called on “the scientific community to step up and lead the way there, because I know there’s some ideas that are in trial right now for using with guys who have suffered [concussions]. That’s what we need. Because we can’t have any more situations like we’ve had the last 10 years, where you’re having guys either take their own lives or end up passing [away].
“We need to take a look at the back end [of players' lives] and how we’re taking care of guys who are moving on who've dealt with a lot of head injuries.”