Roddy White & Co. must understand price veterans like Csonka paid

by | CBSSports.com National NFL Insider
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Larry Csonka and Joe Namath participated at the Detroit Super Bowl in 2006. (Getty Images)  
Larry Csonka and Joe Namath participated at the Detroit Super Bowl in 2006. (Getty Images)  

No so long ago Larry Csonka was on the phone and the subject was his 1972 Miami Dolphins team, a team that was one of the toughest in NFL history, and accomplished perhaps the greatest team feat in American sports by going undefeated. At one point, rather suddenly, Csonka started talking about mortality.

"When you're a young football player," he said, "you think you're invincible. You don't believe anything can touch you. A lot of young players don't think about the future."

They don't have respect for the future because it seems so far away. Some players also, especially today -- looking at you, Roddy White -- have no respect for the men who played before them because they're too egocentric.

White tweeted: "It's crazy how football players are killing our game you signed up to play a violent game and made a lot of money now you talk bad about #how," White tweeted first.

He later added: "I love playing football if I cant walk when im 50 it was well worth it."

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White has three kids. If, heaven forbid, he can't walk at 50, does he want his kids to take care of him for the rest of his life? Does he want them rolling him around in a wheelchair? Carrying him up the stairs?

If he's injured next season and can't play ever again, has he accumulated enough wealth so those children won't have to take care of him? Or get him nursing care for 20 years? Thirty? What if he lives for another 50 years but can't earn a significant income?

These are the type of things that players like White don't consider. Think about all of the things you can do at 50. Fifty is the new 30. OK, 40. To think of 50 as some sort of age when the world ends shows the arrogance and ignorance of White's youth.

Most of all, what you're seeing with comments like White's is a lack of respect for the men who played before them. Of course older players made their choices to play a dangerous game but that doesn't mean having gone through that process of playing in the NFL they aren't allowed to talk about its dangers.

Former players like Kurt Warner, who said he might not let his kids play football, are the perfect people to speak on the issue. They've been through it. Whether the latest with concussions and CTE are about mass hysteria or accurate isn't the point; veteran players speaking about their lives in football is. Listen to them, and don't believe them if you choose, but don't tell them to go away.

You see some of these older former players on every team. They are the silver-haired scouts and personnel men and assistant coaches who played decades ago. They walk with limps and use canes. Every NFL beat writer has seen these men. They are reflections, possible mirrors, for what's to come with today's players. They should be used as resources, not mocked or scorned.

Part of the reason, I believe, some current players want to ignore past ones suing the league is because of some innate fear that this indeed may be their future.

White would later realize the ignorance of his earlier tweet but only after he was bashed for hours on Twitter. "Yes older players didn't make what we made but I remember when gas was 89 cents so the cost of living was different," White wrote. "I don't have nothing against old players they made football what it is today and I love those guys and I don't have a problem with them suing the nfl I don't have to worry about it the nfl has enough money to pay them."

What a turnaround even if it wasn't necessarily sincere.

Csonka was a rarity, a player who was brutally tough, thought about life after football and respected the men who came before him. Few players in history could dish or take a beating like Csonka. His nose was broken so many times it became a running joke among teammates who would be in the huddle and see Csonka's blood dripping onto their cleats.

Csonka once launched upward to catch a pass, was hit hard in the back, his body lurching backward. It was one of those hits where some Dolphins players didn't think he would walk again. The hit was so gruesome it was replayed on The Tonight Show.

Yet all along Csonka was smart. He thought about the future and wondered what the violence was doing to his body.

"My left leg is turning yellow," he told a group of writers in 1972. "My back is turning blue. Sometimes I wish I'd studied harder in college so I could be a veterinarian and go around patting dogs on the head." He would later add: "What is the single most expendable item in the NFL? The players. They can run out of a lot of things but they can always find more players."

Four decades later not much has changed, except maybe the respect level the current players have for their past brethren has gotten even lower.

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