Ted Johnson, the former NFL linebacker now dealing with memory loss and depression he says is related to repeated concussions during his career, said Friday he is scared, anxious and worried about his future during an interview with ESPN.
Johnson, now 34, said last week that he began having memory problems after sustaining two concussions in four days in 2002 -- one in an exhibition game, one in practice. He blamed the New England Patriots, and head coach Bill Belichick, for having him practice against the advice of team trainers.
Friday, he gave his first television interview since the initial series of reports, saying: "I don't want to place blame anywhere. It probably could all go around to a little bit of everybody. I can't honestly sit here and say Bill Belichick knew what second-impact syndrome was."
Johnson played in the NFL for 10 seasons. He told The Boston Globe that in a September 2002 meeting, he told Belichick: "You played God with my health. You knew I shouldn't have been cleared to play."
Belichick told the Globe he hadn't realized at the time that Johnson was hesitant about participating in the full-contact drill.
He said he spoke up now because of a story he read about Andre Waters, a former NFL defensive back who shot himself to death in November. A New York Times story earlier this year quoted a noted forensic pathologist who studied Waters' brain tissue and determined that it resembled that of an 85-year-old man with Alzheimer's disease, likely the result of multiple concussions suffered during Waters' career.
"I read the Andrew Waters story," Johnson told ESPN's Wendy Nix in an interview shown on "Outside The Lines." "I said enough's enough. I need to tell the story. I may take a shot. I may take a hit. I was a pretty damn good linebacker. I was known for my physical play. I'm not worried about what people are going to say."
Johnson, who retired from the NFL in 2005, is showing early signs of Alzheimer's, according to his current neurologist, Dr. Robert Cantu. Cantu told The New York Times that these are "rather classic post-concussion symptoms. ... They are most likely permanent."
Johnson said he is worried about his future.
"Right now, I would probably describe it as a little scary, a little unsure," he told ESPN. "Lot of anxiety. Lot of disappointment. Shame."