By Steve Silverman
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Kurt Warner only spent one season in a New York Giant uniform. It was probably one of the most undistinguished years of his career.
However, when Warner played for the Giants, he demonstrated the guts that allowed him to help cement his legend that began with a magical run in St. Louis and concluded in Arizona.
When Warner was with the Giants, he was still feeling the impact of a hand injury suffered in 2002 that made it difficult for him to hold on to the football and was probably feeling the impact of a concussion suffered in 2003. The Giants weren’t much in 2004, finishing the season with a 6-10 record. But they would have been a lot worse without Warner, who recorded a 5-4 record in games he started for the Giants. He did that even though he fumbled the ball 12 times that season.
Warner retired following the 2009 season. He played 12 seasons in the NFL and he completed over 65 percent of his passes. Warner’s ability to stand in the pocket, deliver the ball accurately and take punishment helped establish his legend in the NFL. He won a Super Bowl with the St. Louis Rams, and if that wasn’t enough, he took the Arizona Cardinals to their only Super Bowl. The Arizona Freaking Cardinals. That in and of itself may be worthy of induction into the Hall of Fame.
Warner is once again in the headlines and not because he is considering some kind of comeback. Instead, Warner has been honest enough to say that he would be quite hesitant to let his sons play the game that enabled him to become a star and still affords him the opportunity to comment on the game for the NFL Network.
When Warner said he was scared to let his sons play the game, quite a few members of the pro football fraternity turned on him. NFL commentator and former Steeler running back Merril Hoge, who suffered several concussions during his career, said that Warner’s thoughts were “irresponsible and unacceptable.” Former Giants wide receiver Amani Toomer said Warner was trashing the game. Both former players said that Warner was throwing the sport under the bus.
It would take a mighty big bus to do any damage to the institution known as the NFL. But what Hoge and Toomer are really saying is that Warner should keep his mouth shut because his words are endangering the flow of cash that comes from the NFL spigot. When Warner opens his mouth and acknowledges the safety issues that are so inherent in the sport, he is doing damage to current and former players.
That’s the kind of head-in-the-sand response you should expect from those who sense their future paychecks may be impacted by further discussion of the issue. However, there’s a lot more at stake for players than paychecks.
But when cement heads like Hoge and others of his ilk get angry at Warner, it only makes them look bad. Look at the spate of concussions and head injuries that have impacted players. Look at the problem of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), that is being studied and documented at Boston University and is impacting many former players. Look at the suicides of former players like Andre Waters, Dave Duerson and Junior Seau. Then throw in the Bountygate scandal that has led to the suspension of New Orleans Saints coaches, players and executives.
That’s right, Merril. Warner’s the bad guy for not throwing his children into the sport given all the damage that has been inflicted. It doesn’t mean that Warner doesn’t care about football. It just means he cares more about his children.
Despite his righteous indignation, you have to think that Hoge has the same kind of thoughts as Warner, but he would never, ever let such words leave his mouth. He doesn’t want to do or say anything that could render some of the fat from the calf that is putting so much mutton in his pockets.
Warner is continuing to speak his mind, and that’s a good thing. It can only lead to more discussion of a subject that is likely to be controversial for many years to come.
Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer, covering sports since 1980. Silverman was with Pro Football Weekly for 10 years and his byline has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Playboy, NFL.com and The Sporting News. He is the author of four books, including Who’s Better, Who’s Best in Football — The Top 60 Players of All-Time. Follow him on Twitter (@profootballboy).
What’s your take on the comments from Warner, Hoge and Toomer? Be heard in the comments below…