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If He Had A Do-Over, Lem Barney Would Flip Burgers Before Playing in the NFL 

On Friday, Lions legendary defensive back Lem Barney sat on a panel at the Sound Mind Sound Body football camp in Southfield, Mich.

On Friday, Lions legendary defensive back Lem Barney sat on a panel at the Sound Mind Sound Body football camp in Southfield, Mich., and talked about how football was "deadly" and  would be gone in 10 to 20 years.

Barney, a Hall of Fame defensive back, said he wishes he would have been a truck driver or a cab driver, anything other than a player suffering concussions.

"People often ask me do I miss the game, do I wish I could still play with all the money they're making today. Even with all of that, I'd say, 'Heck, no,' " Barney said. "The game is becoming more deadly today.

"It's a great game, and I think it's the greatest game if you like gladiators. It's the greatest game for yesteryear's gladiators. But in the next 10 to 20 years, society will alleviate football altogether because of how strong it's becoming, how big it's becoming and the tenacity that it already is. And it's only going to get worse."


In the word’s of Black Rob,“Whoa.” Talk about not knowing your audience. With coaches like Michigan’s Brady Hoke, Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio and Wisconsin’s Gary Anderson in attendance, that was not the time to play soothsayer.


Though Barney has made similar comments in the past, as one of the hundreds of former football players suing the NFL over how it handled head injuries, the remarks –– made in front of a room of football coaches who eat off the sport –– reportedly had cats squirming in their seats.

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Sunday, Barney said he believed his comments were truthful, but the camp was not the right forum.

"I don't want to discourage young men from their love of the game, I just want the game to be safe," Barney said. "What I said were things I feel, things that happened to me, but obviously it was not the right time or place … and I apologize to any of the coaches whom I made uncomfortable at the event. “


Barney had to retract those comments. He was bugging. This sudden rush on player safety, head injuries and lawsuits smell of half sincerity and half greed. As far as this revelation that football is dangerous, the doctors and league offices knew many moons ago and the players didn’t want to know when they were young, getting paper and the envy of all men.

To now try and dump on football and predict it’s down fall, is definitely suspect-soldier stuff.


Sure, improve safety, but don’t try to assassinate and predict the downfall of a game that’s brought joy to and fed more families than Third World Country food drives. Especially not out of regret over personal choices or an attempt to get bank. Barney has colleagues and fellow football lifers whose entire existence revolves around the sport. Nobody likes it when somebody tells you to prepare to work at UPS because the golden goose is cooked.

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The balance between promoting football, and bringing football-related injuries to the forefront is going to be a nightmarish tug-of-war in the near future. Let’s just hope the cats leading the charge to eliminate the sport are doing it for the right reasons.

JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The Deputy Editor and Senior Writer is in his 23rd year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, magazines and national TV.

His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.