San Francisco 49ers quarterback Steve Young almost certainly will not be cleared to play for at least another three weeks and likely will make up his mind during that time about his future in football, according to agent Leigh Steinberg.
Steinberg said he has been advising Young, who is sidelined with his fourth concussion in three years, to retire for the last two seasons. Young's doctors believe he suffered this latest concussion Sept. 19, when he was knocked down 21 times against New Orleans. He played the following week against Arizona and was knocked unconscious on a hit by Cardinals cornerback Aeneas Williams. Gary Steinberg, the chief of neurosurgery at Stanford Medical School and Young's neurologist, said yesterday he has given Young and the 49ers his recommendation on whether the two-time NFL most valuable player should continue playing. Young, Gary Steinberg, General Manager Bill Walsh and Coach Steve Mariucci declined to discuss the nature of the doctor's recommendation yesterday.
Gary Steinberg said there were no signs of bruising or permanent damage to Young's brain but that there are dangers from repeated concussions, which can lead to premature senility and other brain dysfunction.
Leigh Steinberg said he was pleased Young was not medically cleared to play because, "It's been almost three weeks, and there are still symptoms" of post-concussion syndrome, including wooziness and headaches.
The 49ers host Carolina Sunday, travel to Minnesota Oct. 24, then have a bye week until they play at home against Pittsburgh Nov. 7.
"It's extremely unlikely he'll play before the bye," Leigh Steinberg said. "Steve is not in denial about this. He knows more about concussions than anyone. We've had three concussion conferences over the last three years. I bring in the brightest minds from across the country to meet with my players. Steve has a masters in concussions.
"The problem is he's a competitive person, and he still wants to play. This is not John Elway walking off into the sunset after winning a Super Bowl. It's a guy who went to training camp and is very involved in this team and this season. But if the doctor conclusively tells him he should not play any more, he will walk away.
"He's financially secure. He has a beautiful girlfriend. He could run for governor of Utah in two years, and he's starting up an Internet company. I advised him to retire two years ago. But this is a process that will take a little time. He still feels an obligation to Bill Walsh and to the team, but ultimately, he'll do the right thing. He deserves a chance to make his own decision."
Walsh, the 49ers' team president, said he met with Young, discussed his future and encouraged Young to seek additional medical opinions, leading to speculation that Gary Steinberg recommended Young retire because of the potential for long-term health risks.
"Five to 10 years from now, when he's feeling really fit, he's going to say, 'Why didn't I play football? I took the advice of one physician. I should have really checked into it,' " Walsh said. "I want to make sure he really checks into everything. He has to have more than one opinion, just for his own well-being."