On a day when the San Diego Chargers dominated sports media, the real lead got buried between the news of head coach Norv Turner keeping his job and owner Dean Spanos saying he could not say with certainty that the team would still be in San Diego next season.
The most important news out of Chargers camp today was comments made by left guard Kris Dielman who spoke publicly for the first time since suffering a season-ending concussion against the New York Jets in week seven.
If you recall (watch the video here: http://tinyurl.com/7zyz3hg ), a disoriented Dielman stumbled around the field after sustaining a concussion in the third quarter, yet continued to play for the duration of the game before the concussion was diagnosed after the 27-21 loss at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. Dielman subsequently suffered a grand mal seizure on the team plane as the Chargers were flying from the east coast back home to San Diego after the game.
Despite being hospitalized and placed on the Injured Reserve list, the married father of two young sons said he would be willing to risk his health to win a Super Bowl.
“‘Yeah [would risk health issues to play for a Super Bowl], I think so ,’ Dielman said Monday in his first comments about his injury, which caused the NFL to announce it would give game officials “concussion awareness training” so they could keep an eye out for players. ‘I’ve got some other people who probably wouldn’t agree,’ said Dielman, who added that ultimately it will be his decision whether he returns or retires.”
Dielman made a few contradictory statements. The 320-pound, four-time Pro Bowl selection said that while he and head coach Norv Turner made a joint decision to place him on IR because he felt ill, that he would still knowingly play with a head injury, even in light of his recent experiences. Here’s more from CBSSports.com:
"Asked if he’d be more cognizant about a possible concussion and would pull himself out of a game, Dielman said: ‘Apparently, I won’t do that. That’s the scary part, too. I’ll play through just about anything and I’ve played through this one and it got me. I’ve made my whole career doing dumb [stuff] like that.’ Dielman said he doesn’t remember the hit that hurt him. ‘It looks like I’m drunk,’ he said. ‘Deal with it. That’s how I got here, doing stupid [stuff] on the football field. It got me 10 years in, so I’m all right with that.’"
This is why the decision has to be taken out of the players’ hands, and legally, it is according to rules implemented by the NFL, NHL, etc, stating that only medical professionals can determine whether or not an injured player is healthy enough to play, not a coach or the player himself. The problem is that while the rules are in place, they are not being enforced. Read what NFL players have said about that here: http://tinyurl.com/blgc6pl
As far as his future is concerned, Dielman said he will take the offseason to speak with his family and doctors before deciding whether or not to retire or continue playing. I found the following quotations quite interesting:
“‘If I didn’t have kids and a family, the decision would be much easier. I probably would have been playing again this year,’ he said. ‘It’s not just me. I have two little boys and a wife. I have to make sure everything’s all right with me and I have to see some doctors still and make a decision from there. Whenever I choose, I’m not going to do anything to hurt the organization.’”
He won’t do anything to hurt the organization? What about his children? I’m sure Dielman cares deeply for his family (at lease one would hope), so his priorities seem misguided.
“‘No ring. I’ve only got a wedding ring,’ he said. ‘I’ve done the Pro Bowls, I’ve done the contract. I want a Super Bowl. I’m no different than anybody else in San Diego that’s (complaining) and moaning about not being in the Super Bowl. Trust me; we want to be in the Super Bowl, too. It’s not an easy league.’”
Being a fierce competitor is usually what makes a great athlete, but sometimes, it can break him just the same. The hunger for competition can be dangerous to those who want something so badly and perhaps feel an air of invincibility. I hope that Dielman uses his head and health to guide him instead of his heart and pride moving forward.
On a larger scale, hopefully the NFL will take note of Dielman’s interview and use it as further evidence proving the need for medical professionals to make medical decisions for players who perhaps lack the strength to do the right thing for themselves and their families.
To read the CBSSports.com piece on Kris Dielman in its entirety, which I highly recommend, click here: http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/story/16697114/chargers-guard-dielman-willing-to-risk-health-in-pursuit-of-super-bowl-ring