I asked Turner if he’d ever gotten a concussion during a game and played through it.
“Sure,’’ he said. “The year after Green Bay won the Super Bowl, I was on the Eagles, and we played them in Philly. I remember the opening kickoff, and then I remember, maybe late in the first quarter, going up to our backup quarterback and saying, ‘You’ll think I’m crazy, but are we in Green Bay or Philly? And how are we doing?’ He went and got a doctor. Turns out I had played a bunch of plays on automatic pilot. The doctor said, ‘Remember these words,’ and I couldn’t. And he gave me the test three or four times, and finally I think it was the fourth time, I remembered the words and they let me back in the game. You can’t imagine the fit I would have thrown if they wouldn’t have let me back in the game.”
Turner played the rest of the game. He remembers a long drive in the fourth quarter—being the lead blocker for Ricky Watters on play after play—that led to the winning touchdown. Nineteen plays, 80 yards, touchdown. Block after block. “That’s just what you did then,’’ he said. He watched film with his mates the next day, and there was a series of plays he had no idea had happened. He was back at practice Wednesday, and played the next week.
That wasn’t the only time he played when he shouldn’t have. But he blames himself as much as he blames the football culture of the day. “Football didn’t do this to me,’’ he said. “My ignorance did it. That, and maybe others who should have known better.”
On Aug. 22, Turner had a surgical procedure. A doctor implanted six electrodes on his diaphragm. “That should give me 24 to 36 more months breathing on my own,’’ Turner said. Before he needs a ventilator to breathe for him. He’s spending “darn near every cent’’ of his disability payments on treatments and doctors and medication and equipment.
“From the get-go,’’ he said, “I was worried about how long this would drag out. I didn’t think I’d see anything, but I was hopeful my kids would.
“I didn’t do this for a public hanging of the NFL. I never wanted to kill the NFL. The past is the past. What’s more important? Hanging the NFL for the sins of the past? Ruining the lives of people who, I’m guessing, most of them don’t even work in the NFL anymore? Or doing something to really help people, and then really working to make the game safer?’’
“How,’’ I said, “can you still love the game?”
“I think even moreso I’m excited about the game now,’’ said Turner. “Now, you see doctors, trainers and coaches who have the knowledge about concussions and head injuries treating them different than when I played. We should be excited about the game now. It’s the most beloved game in the country, and they’re making it safer now. Now, a guy wobbles back to the sidelines, and it’s likely he’s done for the day. But they’ll examine him now. Refs are looking now. Trainers, doctors are looking. Hopefully, after 10 years, after maybe one more generation of players understands it’s okay to say you have a concussion, players will learn a different game. Tackling with your head up, with your shoulders, not lowering your head.’’
With the money he gets from the settlement, Turner said he hopes to help his 70-year-old father so he can stop working. He wants to put enough money away so his three children will be well-educated—something he knows he would have been able to provide were it not for the ALS. He wants to seek treatment for himself, in the hopes that some new ALS treatment might be found. “Then,’’ he said, “if there’s anything left over, I’d like to help fund some research into ALS. I honestly believe we will find something to stop this in the next five years.’’
That was repeated to Chris Seeger Sunday night. “That’s why Kevin Turner was a driving force for me in this case,’’ Seeger said. “These are the people we should really admire in life.”