Even though it wasn’t exactly a shock…it kind of was. The Pittsburgh Steelers announced earlier this evening that they have released tight end Ladarius Green with a failed physical designation, after doing the same with longtime long snapper Greg Warren.
It’s not as though there were no warning signs. They were amply present before the Steelers ever signed him to the four-year, $20 million contract last season, of which he will have earned $6 million, pending any injury protection that might factor in over the next two years.
Green had three documented concussions over the course of his four-year career with the Chargers, though he only missed two games combined through all three. However, local reporters did seem to concur with the rather infamous national media report during the summer that he was experiencing headaches.
That was a major sensation at the time, but that seemed to go by the wayside when he did finally get on the field and began contributing in the form of explosive plays for a Steelers offense that was beginning to look scary heading into the postseason with him in the mix.
Then he caught what was essentially the game-sealing pass against the Bengals in Week 15. He braced himself and took a hit to the head while as a runner after the catch, and subsequently had notable contact with the ground. This triggered what was at the very least his fourth concussion—and one that perhaps has just ended his football career.
I, for one, hope that that is the case for his sake, provided that the facts and assumptions about which I write are in order. Players are not released with a failed physical designation specifying the trigger for the failed test. Perhaps there will be some clarification later on down the line, but right now we can only, though likely safely, assume that he was released today because of issues stemming from concussions.
Green was still unable to return to the field about a month and a half after he suffered the concussion last season. We are now about half a year removed from that time, and we can only assume that he is still having issues. I hope that I’m wrong. But there’s a reason he didn’t pass his physical.
I wrote an article back in August during the height of Headachegate in which I attempted to shift the tone of the discussion from the professional to the personal, when many were primarily focused on recouping Green’s signing bonus.
I hope to do the same again at this time. The vast majority of commenters were understanding and sympathetic…yet some were very much the opposite, and I find that troubling.
We are dealing with a man’s long-term cognitive health, and this is a field that we are very much only beginning to understand. We know that young athletes who have died exhibited the brain structure of a person far older due to extended brain trauma. Chris Henry and others have already showed us the truth of this matter.
If all is actually as it seems, I do sincerely hope that Green is wise enough not to continue to pursue a career in the NFL for the sake of his long-term cognitive health. Some things are just more important than money or sports.