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View Full Version : Football Kris Jenkins talks about life in the NFL


Douche Baggins
11-20-2011, 10:50 PM
Pretty interesting.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/20/sports/football/kris-jenkinss-view-of-life-in-the-nfl-trenches.html?_r=2&src=dayp&pagewanted=all


N.F.L. fans, people outside, they have no clue what goes on. This isnít like playing Madden. This isnít like being the popular kid in high school. When you do those things in the real world, and it donít work out, you still have your health. The thing about football is youíre directly playing with your life, the quality of it and the longevity of it. The stakes are up there.

You ever been in a car crash? Done bumper cars? You know when that hit catches you off guard and jolts you, and youíre like, what the hell? Football is like that. But 10 times worse. Itís hell.

I got my first N.F.L. concussion against Green Bay, my rookie year. I jumped, and my feet got clipped, and I hit the ground face-first. Bang! No shoulders. No chest. Nothing. Just my face hit. I got up, and I had the punch-drunk feeling, seeing starbursts and feeling giddy. I knew where I was. I knew what was going on. I also knew I had my bell rung. I made tackles back to back, and I remember one coach saying, the way heís playing right now, the concussion probably did him some good. I played the whole game.

The debate about concussions wasnít there yet. Iíve had more than 10, including college and the pros. Nobody cared. And thatís the thing. We play football.

I remember one game, at Carolina, my second year. We played Arizona, and the double team weighed 780 pounds combined. They just kept double-teaming me, hoping I would fold and cave in. I didnít. But that was probably the most painful day I had.

From the double teams, over the years, I wore the left side of my body down. I was past hurt. I was at the point of numb. Like my body was shutting down nervous systems, so I didnít have to deal with pain.

The numbness started at the very beginning. I couldnít feel part of both arms. I couldnít feel part of both legs. It was worse on the left. Iím just starting to get feeling back in my left side. Look, football is no joke.

But Iím going to say this much: somebody has to be the grunt. Thatís why thereís no better position on the field than interior defensive line. Forget quarterbacks or specialists. Theyíve got it easy. If we donít come to play, nobody else on defense can do their job. Weíve got the toughest job on the field. We donít care about our facial hair. We play a grimy position.

Piles, oh, my God, theyíre brutal. Iíve had my ankles twisted. Iíve been bit. Iíve done stuff. Iíve tried to break guysí elbows, pinching people, twisting ankles, trying to bend up their arms, pop an elbow out. Why? I had to fight back.

Mentally, weíre conditioned to be tough. Weíre conditioned to feel no pain. The only injury I ever felt while playing was when one of my knees tore. Thatís the only time I felt pain and was like, O.K., that hurt.

But Mondays, you wake up, and itís hard to get out of bed. It hurts wherever you got hit. I remember one time getting hit by Edgerrin James. He put his head in my chest. I woke up, and I couldnít even move, because it felt like my chest was going to collapse. It was sore for days. All you want to do is get the blood circulating.

Hot tub. Cold tub. Hot tub. Cold tub.

The brain fog? It still hasnít stopped. It feels like youíre punch-drunk, like someone hit you over the head. Itís like you knock yourself stupid. When you have to concentrate on things, then it becomes an issue. My head gets foggy to the point where I really canít function. Then I get acupuncture. I get massage treatments.

We know itís going to hurt. We know because pain in football is consistent over time. Youíre still hurting in the off-season. Youíre hurting when the next season starts.

I saw [the former Panthers linebacker] Dan Morgan go through the head injuries. If anybody I played with hit harder than me, it was Morgan. That man was a monster.

Unfortunately, he paid the price.

I mean, guys play hurt, but itís a choice. They do a pretty good job now, with all the scrutiny around concussions. On the line, itís still painful. By the end of the year, half an offensive line might be getting shots, draining fluid from their knees. Most stay away from cortisone now, because itís degenerative.

Everything gets off center. Bulging disk. Herniated disk. For linemen, it starts in the lower back. Throws everything off.

I canít blame anybody for my death. I made the choice to play football. I made the choice to walk through the concussions. I could have stopped. I could have said, my head hurts. It was my choice, as a man. We consider football a gladiator sport because we understand youíre going to get hurt. Youíre putting your life on the line. You might not die now, like in an old Roman arena, but 5, 10 years down the road, you could. You know that.

I wouldnít change anything.

The Warnings

During my career, I kept my mouth shut. This now, speaking out, itís about telling you my life. Thereís no agenda, no vendetta. This is what footballís really like.

When I was a little kid, I got picked on. I didnít start hitting my growth spurts until high school. I was the smallest kid in my class in junior high. When you get bullied, you either cower and shy away from the world, or you go ballistic. I didnít get to the point where I felt like shooting people. But I fought back once I could.

Iím going to be absolutely honest with you. When I stepped into the game, I was an idiot. The issues they had with me in Carolina, some were misconstrued, some were blown out of proportion, some were spot-on. I didnít have an issue with the game. I had an issue with trying to figure out how to live in the real world while Iím playing.

When we come into the N.F.L., weíre idiots. Because youíve been groomed from childhood to think the rules donít apply to you.

So this is what happens. Youíre going to be warned. The first warning is the first meeting you have with an agent, when you realize this is real. My choices count at this point. Iím going to be prostituting myself for the next 18 years of my life.

Thatís the first warning. The next one is that good old combine.

Thatís when you realize, when you march in that room half naked, Iím a number now. Theyíve changed the recruiting process to a percentage.

Thatís what you are.

The third warning is when you get that contract. Most of the language in there is standardized. The gist of it is, stay in line, or else.

Your last warning is in training camp because thereís no learning curve. Thatís when you realize that it all ties in together, and it will be that way as long as youíre playing.

I went through so much in Carolina, it was ridiculous. People checking up on us in clubs. Concerns with the locker room. John Fox was our coach. He was a big clichť guy. Heíd say, do as I say, not as I do.

That didnít make sense to me.

On New York and Ryan

I loved New York. I loved playing there. I loved the spotlight. I was fine in New York, but I also played for Eric Mangini. We started 8-3, Brett Favre, all of that. Everybody told Mangini, stop with the long practices, youíre killing us. You practice too hard. Weíre on turf.

Iíve got a bulging disk in my back. That was when my whole career started going down.

People donít understand this, but the most important person in the building for a lineman is a strength coach.

Rex Ryan is a trendsetter. Rex grew up in the game. His dad was a coach. He picked up on it. Players like Rex. They respond to coaches like Rex. They want a coach who knows what it feels like.

Violence and Madness

Roger Goodell said something to me that always stuck in my head: Weíre ambassadors for the game.

O.K., well, if weíre ambassadors for the game, then we should be able to have a voice. We should be able to stand up and say, Iím union, Iím proud of that. Where I grew up near Detroit, people were proud to be in unions. They had a voice.

What you hear from guys like Ray Lewis, James Harrison, what theyíre saying is weíre well aware what weíre signing up for. The violence, we love it. The madness, we love it. We love measuring ourselves in it.

Those guys express themselves with their pads. You soften the game, youíre taking away their freedom of expression. Nobody wants to see flag football, and now, you might as well give guys flags, tell them to hug afterward, all that.

The violence is what I remember. Like against Buffalo in 2009, when I had the game of my career. Or the time I slapped a lineman out of the way in Houston with one arm. Winning, the physical part, the mayhem, finding the line between insanity and sanity, thatís the exact reason why you play. Thatís the reason fans like football in the first place.

A guy like James Harrison, heís possessed, and thatís the guy you love to play with, love to watch. He doesnít need to be babied.

Now the game is so profitable, the opportunities off the field are so tremendous, guys arenít even maximizing football for what it was like in the first place, what you loved about it as a kid. Now, the game is about money. Itís not even about our health.

Guys now are always looking for the easy way out. Body hurts, take a painkiller. Sore knee, take a muscle relaxer. I get tired of seeing all these polished idiots. Chad Ochocinco. Terrell Owens. Go on Twitter and brag about how pretty your stomach muscles look. What happened to football?

Silence on Drugs

I never saw anyone take drugs, but you get a sense of the guys that you think are. My first years in the league, before they really started testing for masking agents and things like that, it seemed like more guys were on enhancers. Now, itís about 20 percent, and I donít think most guys are doing steroids. Theyíve moved on. They were supposed to do the H.G.H. testing; they keep putting it off. I think that might be for the amount of people doing H.G.H. It might have been more than they thought.

Nobody is going to say anything in the locker room because itís still a brotherhood. The guys donít want to feel like youíre going to tell on somebody, even if theyíre doing something wrong.

The N.F.L. is too big to fail. If that happened, it would be a slow death. Itís still the ultimate game. For us, itís like legal prison rules. You have to protect your manhood, your well-being. Youíre going to be challenged. Youíre going to be tested.

There arenít too many places a 400-pound guy with an attitude can go and beat the crap out of somebody and not get locked up for it. I have a violent streak. I have to fight it out of my system. We signed up for it. All of it. Weíre not trying to be sane or rationale.

Itís not all from the league. Health is something that players are responsible for as well. I mean, thereís so much crap these guys are putting in their body. Youíve got creatine. Youíve got supplements.

Most of them arenít hydrating properly. Mix that with alcohol.

For linemen, itís the worst. Youíre already going to be overweight and miserable while youíre playing. Everybody looks at it like, oh, Iím glad Iím fat. Iím not. I donít want to be 400 pounds.

With a lot of teams, the methods of strength and conditioning across the N.F.L. are outdated. Iím a kinesiology major. Teams arenít focused on core stability. Youíre doing intense lifting, and youíre top-loading yourself. Thereís no base. Thatís why a lot of guys have knee problems, hip problems. Those are the things that get neglected, based on this outdated strength system.

Right now, itís more important than ever for guys to take care of themselves off the field. The Patriots do it right. They have an acupuncturist on staff. They do Pilates. Thatís one secret to their success: recovery.

You can do a lot off the field. You can lift. You can run. But that trauma, that rattling, that impact, thereís nothing you can do to stop it. Your body is going to naturally react. Your muscles will tighten up. Fluid builds.

The unfortunate thing is the timing of the off-season. You donít have enough time. You get a month off, and you use that to mentally relax.

But your body is still tense from all that impact, from all that pain.

I donít think the science is keeping up with the changes in the game.

Weíre not on grass anymore. Weíre on turf, which is disgusting for fat people. I hate turf. Itís the worst thing ever invented for a lineman.

Your knees absorb the impact. Itís being bounced up through your body through the concrete. Into your lower back. Into your lower spine.

People donít want to put up with the gunk and the mud, but that was one of the best parts of the game. Playing in mud, when you canít get a grip, when itís disgusting. Thatís football. The entertainment value was just fine back then.

The thing is, when guys retire, then stuff happens to their body; theyíre coming back, screaming like weíre the martyrs in all this.

Itís almost like, well, youíre supposed to take care of yourself.

Players should focus more on recovery, but in the N.F.L., every herb is like a masking agent, or could result in a positive test. No one pays attention to alternative methods.

The first thing I did when I retired was I went to a health store. I believe in Eastern medicine. I literally bought a whole bunch of roots. My life is too important. My family is too important.

I want to get into public speaking, maybe put together a camp, for big guys, linemen in particular. Nobody prepares linemen for what will happen. Someone should.

ChiefsandO'sfan
11-20-2011, 10:52 PM
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No one made him play in the NFL.

Direckshun
11-21-2011, 12:23 AM
Man, I love the candidness. How amazing is that.

Kind of confusing with the whole "I wish they'd go to lengths to make the game less brutal on us big guys" and then breaking into the "they're not letting the game be brutal enough" mantras.

The_Doctor10
11-21-2011, 01:09 AM
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No one made him play in the NFL.


I'm afraid you've missed the point entirely.

Buehler445
11-21-2011, 07:56 AM
Good info, but no matter how many times he says he's not, it still seems like he's whining.

I do agree that someone should tell these guys what to expect.

Gonzo
11-21-2011, 08:08 AM
I'm afraid you've missed the point entirely.

I don't think he read the fucking thing. Just the 1st few paragraphs and decided to form an opinion and post it.

Dude, the whole point of the article was that he chose to play with concussions and injuries.
Reading comprehension... Yes we can!
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-King-
11-21-2011, 08:08 AM
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No one made him play in the NFL.

Stick to twitter. Anything over 140 letters seems a bit too much for you since it seems like you missed the point entirely
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Deberg_1990
11-21-2011, 08:56 AM
This is why you will never hear me say any player is overpaid in the NFL.

Demonpenz
11-21-2011, 09:03 AM
It feels good to see a Dan Morgon reference, for years he was in madden when I drafted a linebacker it would say "This linebacker is in the Mold of Dan Morgan" I would always say, that has to be a made up name, who is dan Morgan, then I would look him up and law and behold dan morgan exists.

Hydrae
11-21-2011, 09:18 AM
Interesting read, thanks for the post!