Detroit Lions linebacker DeAndre Levy possess excellent awareness — both on and off the field.
Lions fans felt an all-to-familiar feeling the day that future Hall-of-Famer, Calvin Johnson announced his retirement from the game of football at just 30-years-old. After all, it was just 17 years ago that the greatest player to ever wear Honolulu blue hung his cleats up after just ten seasons. Funny thing is, even though no one wanted Johnson to retire, no one could blame him either.
There was never any question that Johnson gave it his all over his nine years in Detroit, and sure, he probably would have been productive for many years to come had he played through his mid-30’s. However with all the bumps following countless dramatic catches, enough money in his bank account to spend the rest of his life living comfortably and his name embedded in the record books; closing the book on this chapter of his life only made sense.
Anyone who is a fan of football in this day in age is aware of the controversy surrounding Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy and the game. The disease, better known to most as CTE, is a form of tauopathy and is a progressive disease. It is generally found in individuals who have suffered severe blows to the head. There are many physical, contact sports in America and across the world, but perhaps none more punishing to the human body than football.
Recently, the NFL admitted that there was indeed a link between CTE and the game of football. Unfortunately, the omission didn’t make many people feel better. The league also continues to reject disability claims submitted by players who have suffered multiple concussions and are no longer able to play the game that once provided income for themselves and their families. Take former Jacksonville Jaguars and Baltimore Ravens guard, Will Rackley for example.
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Rackley retired in 2014 at the age of 24. He played four seasons in the league and suffered multiple concussions in a short period of time. Now, at 26-years-old, Rackley claims to live a life of confusion and pain.
His disability claims to the league were both rejected by two NFL-approved doctors; and it’s not money Rackley is after. He played long enough that he receives a league pension. The management of his post-concussive symptoms however is up to him. Rackley currently receives regular nerve block injections into his eyelids, his temples and the back of his skull to try to deal with the constant headaches he’s suffered through over the last few years. After his most recent treatment, Rackley says his right eye wouldn’t open for five hours and he couldn’t see straight for a whole day.
"“It’s very frustrating,” Rackley said of the league’s recent admissions. “It’s almost like … I don’t want to say that they don’t really care, but I haven’t received any help. Not that I’m asking for help, but I haven’t received any checkups from the Ravens or anything. Throughout the  season I was on injured reserve, and once the official season started, I didn’t hear from the Ravens at all.”"
Stories like this have not gone unnoticed.
Last year, Detroit Lions linebacker DeAndre Levy found himself on the sideline watching the game for all but about 4% of the season. During his time not playing, Levy was able to take in what was happening around him, instead of ignoring it like he had done when he was on the field. The former Wisconsin Badger became curious about brain injuries, CTE and the leagues actions. Levy took his questions to Instagram last week, and explained why in an email to ESPN.com on Tuesday night.
"“I feel it’s important for current players to be a part of the discussion,” Levy said. “Not just former players or families of deceased players. I thought my questions were fair questions that deserve answers, not only for myself, but for other players, former, current and future, in order for the sport to move forward.”“There needs to be more transparency for the players and future players that aspire to get to this level, so they are informed enough to know the risks along with the rewards. Even for former players, so that they can be prepared for the issues that may come. Right now, their only way of dealing with it is suggesting that it’s the way we play that causes concussions, not the fact that football itself is inherently a violent sport.”“I hate cigarettes, but at least their corporations come out and say ‘Our cigarettes cause cancer. Maybe you’ll get it, maybe you won’t. Your choice.’ Being sidelined last year allowed me to look closely at the risks and rewards and make an informed decision that I want to keep playing. Everyone should have enough information to make an informed decision. The next generation of players need to know the rewards and the risks.”"
The truth is, it’s good to see someone the caliber of DeAndre Levy demanding more from the NFL. It also make you wonder though — with Levy obviously aware of the dangers surrounding the game, could he call it quits early?
It’s no big secret that Levy enjoys many things outside of the game. If you don’t know just how many hobbies the guy has, I recommend you check out his Instagram page, (@dre_levy).
That’s just a small handful.
There’s no question, DeAndre Levy loves living life to the absolute fullest. He also loves the game of football and wants to continue playing. He signed a four-year extension last season and is expected to return to the Lions as their top linebacker this fall.
"“I am by no means demonizing football,” Levy said. “I want that to be clear. I made a choice to continue playing knowing the risks.“I want future generations to enjoy it too without any unnecessary risks. I’m getting excited for the upcoming season.”"
At what point though, does someone who is obviously very worried about the dangers of the game decide that enough is enough with so many other great things out there left to experience?