Former Washington Redskins and Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antwaan Randle El is perhaps best remembered for his 43-yard touchdown pass in Super Bowl XL that aided a Pittsburgh win over Seattle, but a decade later, the physical and mental drawbacks have been so significant that he regrets ever playing in the NFL.
“If I could go back, I wouldn’t” play football, he told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in a Steelers-themed project posted Tuesday. “I would play baseball. I got drafted by the Cubs in the 14th round, but I didn’t play baseball because of my parents. They made me go to school. Don’t get me wrong, I love the game of football. But right now, I could still be playing baseball.”
Randle El, who played in Washington from 2006 to 2009 between two stints in Pittsburgh, said he regularly experiences trouble walking down stairs — “I have to come down sideways sometimes, depending on the day” — and has serious memory lapses.
“I ask my wife things over and over again, and she’s like, ‘I just told you that,’ ” Randle El told the Post-Gazette. “I’ll ask her three times the night before and get up in the morning and forget. Stuff like that. I try to chalk it up as I’m busy, I’m doing a lot, but I have to be on my knees praying about it, asking God to allow me to not have these issues and live a long life. I want to see my kids raised up. I want to see my grandkids.”
In 2013, Randle El and three other former players filed a lawsuit against the NFL in a Manhattan federal court alleging the NFL “has done everything in its power to hide the issues and mislead players concerning the risks associated with concussions,” according to The Village Voice. In 2015, after that suit was consolidated with more than 2,000 others, he was one of more than 5,000 players that received more than $900 million in settlement money from the NFL to resolve a concussion lawsuit.
Since retiring in 2010, Randle El helped to found the Virginia Academy, a Christian high school in Ashburn, where he serves as the school’s athletic director. Originally, he was a proponent for the development of a football program at the school, but he has no remorse after it was cut two years in when it became too expensive.
“The kids are getting bigger and faster, so the concussions, the severe spinal cord injuries, are only going to get worse,” he said in the interview. “It’s a tough pill to swallow because I love the game of football. But I tell parents, ‘You can have the right helmet, the perfect pads on, and still end up with a paraplegic kid.’
“There’s no correcting it. There’s no helmet that’s going to correct it. There’s no teaching that’s going to correct it. It just comes down to it’s a physically violent game. Football players are in a car wreck every week.”
Randle El is not naive to the profitability of the sport or the impact it has on society, but with the concussion and life-long injury issues getting more attention than ever before, the nine-year veteran thinks the end may be near.
“Right now, I wouldn’t be surprised if football isn’t around in 20, 25 years.”