Thurman Thomas, 49, opened up this week about the struggles that he faces on a daily basis as a former NFL running back. The Hall of Famer has memory loss and mood swings, and a recent MRI revealed that he has brain damage. In fact, Thomas’ brain, according to his doctor, looks like he “has fallen off the top of his house” or gone “through a windshield of a car several times.”
Thomas’ former Bills teammate, Andre Reed, found this alarming.
“The game is different,” the Hall of Fame wide receiver said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “The protection of the players has been such a big issue. That’s the first thing that’s on Roger’s desk every single day is player safety. Between the helmets and the way guys are getting hit, all that kind of stuff – it wasn’t like that when we played. Safety was not an issue. . . . Nowadays it isn’t like that. I do commend Roger for making this and bringing this to the forefront. But all these former players coming out now, especially with the movie coming out last year in December about concussions and the effects of it, we all are getting older. We all forget.”
Indeed, so while the sports world obsesses over Steph Curry’s Grade 1 MCL sprain, let’s keep it in perspective.
“Every time you get dinged, that’s a concussion,” Reed said. “You can’t measure a concussion, whether it’s mild or (Level) 1 or 2. If you can’t see for a minute, you got a concussion. And all these players and Thurman coming out and saying this, it’s a concern – and they’re not saying it because this other guy said it. It’s affecting me every single day. And for a player of any stature to say that – guys are retiring because of this. There’s four or five guys every year saying, ‘You know what? I can’t do this.’”
It helps, of course, that today’s young players, in theory, have millions of dollars in the bank after just a few NFL seasons. That wasn’t the case in the 1980s.
“It’s a lot different,” Reed said. “Every aspect from the time you put that helmet on to the time you take it off, all that stuff in between is a lot different than it was 25 years ago.”
Looking ahead to this year’s Bills team, Buffalo is seeking back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 1998-99 and its first division title since – wait for it – 1995.
While the division still goes through the Patriots, the Bills finally have an answer at quarterback. That answer is Tyrod Taylor, who last year threw for 3,000+ yards, ran for 500+ yards and accounted for 24 touchdowns (20 pass, four rush).
“Love that guy,” Reed said. “I was with them in training camp last year helping out with the receivers. Talking to Rex, I got to really get to know him a little bit more. We all know Rex kind of wears his stuff on his sleeve. But coming into camp, it was, ‘Who’s going to be the quarterback for the Bills this year?’ (Taylor) went in there and got that starting job. I think he has proven himself that coming into this year, he is deserving of that, and it’s (his) to lose coming into camp. So that’s not the big deal with the Bills this year. Right now, it’s can they get that defense back to being a top-five defense to help that offense?”
The Bills may or may not get to face the Patriots without Tom Brady – they will meet in Foxboro in Week 4 – but Reed is more focused on Buffalo’s West Coast-heavy schedule. Buffalo plays the Rams in Los Angeles, the Seahawks in Seattle and the Raiders in Oakland.
“Those three games could be their season to a certain point,” Reed said. “You got to win one or two of those games.”