Most players expect to sacrifice their bodies playing football. But few expect to sacrifice their minds.
On Monday, June 16th, Marion Barber III, a former Dallas Cowboys running back, was detained in his suburban Texas home by authorities and was taken for a mental health assessment. Although it is still unclear why the police were called to the residence in the first place, TMZ Sports report eyewitnesses saying the authorities talked with the former bruising back for nearly two hours before placing him in handcuffs and into a squad car. But Barber will not be facing charges. While some may feel like the former player has some explaining to do, maybe the real explanation should come from NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell.
Although it is unknown if there is a direct connection between Barber’s recent detainment and the injuries he suffered while playing in the NFL, it certainly wouldn’t be the first disturbing incident connected to the overall brutal physical impact retained by the former players of the sport.
The NFL has had its share of problems with players specifically suffering from past concussions and other blows to the head. The league was rocked by the untimely death of San Diego Chargers linebacker, Junior Seau in 2012. Seau took his own life and autopsies showed significant brain damage. Recently, 15 former NFL players, headlined by former Miami Dolphins great Dan Marino, filed a lawsuit with the NFL over concussions only to be derailed when Marino revoked his name from the suit.
While Goodell may have dodged another bullet in terms of concussions, future actions from the league are inevitable. For the health of the NFL, and most importantly, the health of current and former players, the league’s commissioner must address brain trauma before it is too late for others. And that latest victim could be Barber.
Barber was a running back known for dishing out punishment to defenders. Barber once had a knack for turning short yardage runs into first downs with brutal stiff-arms that earned him the title Marion the Barbarian. His style of play even brought upon a new rule, nicknamed after himself, which stated that offensive players could no longer stiff-arm to the facemask. When Barber found out that he couldn’t stiff-arm to the helmet, he asked if he could still stiff-arm to the throat. Ouch…
Barber used to be the man who violently imposed his will onto defenses. But these recent events may indicate that he could be facing an even more intimidating foe than himself: brain trauma. And it’s a fight the NFL and Goodell should be fighting right alongside him.