Chris Conte: NFL worth early death

Chicago Bears safety Chris Conte, who has suffered two concussions this season, says playing in the NFL is worth the risk he takes to his long-term health by doing so.

"Ever since I was a little kid, it's what I've wanted to do," Conte told WBBM Newsradio in Chicago. "In college, I didn't even graduate school because my senior year, I honestly let school be a casualty to that because I knew I had one opportunity to make it to the NFL, and I put everything into that. And I felt school's something I could figure out later.

"I'd rather have the experience of playing and, who knows, die 10, 15 years earlier than not be able to play in the NFL and live a long life."
Chris Conte, Bears safety

"As far as after football, who knows. My life will revolve around football to some point, but I'd rather have the experience of playing and, who knows, die 10, 15 years earlier than not be able to play in the NFL and live a long life. It's something I've wanted to do with my life and I wanted to accomplish. And I pretty much set my whole life up to accomplish that goal. So I don't really look toward my life after football because I'll figure things out when I get there and see how I am."

Conte, 25, has had a litany of injury issues this season -- also missing time due to a back injury, an eye injury and sprains of both shoulders. He's been held out of three games this season, and he has been unable to continue in seven of the 12 that he's seen action in.

"As long as I outlive my parents, then we'll be all right," Conte said.

Conte told ESPNChicago.com's Jeff Dickerson that his comments to WBBM do not reflect his stance specifically on concussions, claiming that he was referring to the general health risks of playing in the NFL.

"My reference wasn't even to concussions, just the associated risk with football and accepting the fact that life expectancy of someone who has played in the NFL is shorter than the average person," he told ESPNChicago.com on Wednesday. "And I'm fine with trading that risk for the opportunity to play football since it's something I have always wanted to do and a dream come true.

"Doing what I love outweighs risks despite injuries I have amounted this year."

After missing the entire offseason program because of shoulder surgery, Conte was diagnosed with a concussion in a preseason game in Seattle on Aug. 22. He returned in time to start the regular season, but failed to finish games in Weeks 2 and 3 because of shoulder-related issues.

Conte also was diagnosed with a concussion during Chicago's game against Carolina on Oct. 6. After undergoing the sideline concussion protocol, Conte re-entered the game for one play before leaving for the Bears' locker room, where he was officially diagnosed with a concussion.

Conte told ESPNChicago.com that his preseason concussion was a "slight one."

In an ESPN NFL Nation anonymous survey from last January, 85 percent of the 320 players polled said they would play in the Super Bowl with a concussion.

ESPNChicago.com's Jeff Dickerson contributed to this report.