Lem Barney, the Detroit Lions’ Hall of Fame cornerback, apologized choosing the wrong venue in which to predict the demise of the game of football.
He did not, however, regret saying Friday that football is “becoming more deadly” and won’t be around in 20 years.
Barney apologized Sunday, saying the time and place for his comments were inappropriate
“While I made comments I believe to be truthful, it is apparent to me now that the camp was not the forum for those comments,” Barney said in a statement released by his attorney (via the Detroit News). “Those are the same comments I have made for years before Congress, under oath and at numerous events for retired players, and it’s become second nature.
“I don’t want to discourage young men from their love of the game. I just want the game to be safe. What I said were things I feel, things that happened to me, but obviously it was not the right time or place.”
Barney made his original comments at a Sound Mind Sound Body high school football academy at Southfield, Mich., High. Player safety was the camp’s theme and Barney, 67, told players that he had suffered six or seven concussions during his 21 years of playing football at all levels of the game.
“I can see in the next 10, maybe 20 years, society will alleviate football all together, because of how big it’s becoming and the tenacity it already is. It can only get worse,” Barney said Friday.
“It was a joy for me [to play]. As a young kid, football was my goal, my dream, my aspiration. It’s a very violent today. The game has gotten stronger, faster, bigger and in a lot of cases, more intelligent. When you look at collisions today, when an immovable object is hit by an immovable force, something has to give, and normally it’s a body part.”
Barney also said he would choose a different profession, if he could have a do-over.
“There are a lot of people that don’t want to let the game go,” Barney says. “But the game is going to kill a lot of people if [it doesn't change] soon. Maybe take the helmet out of the game, which I don’t think they’ll do. Bubba Smith left us, Dave Duerson left us, Junior Seau of late — guys are killing themselves because of the head injuries they had. You hear about guys who played in championship games, Pro Bowlers, Super Bowl participants … but you don’t hear about the average Joe who played and is killing himself.
“The game is that deadly today.”