This is an interview series in which we ask the plaintiffs of the NFL concussion lawsuit one question (and maybe a few more): Knowing what you know now, if you could do it over again, would you still play football?
Today: Former defensive lineman Derland Moore. Moore walked on at the University of Oklahoma, made All-America in 1972, and was selected by New Orleans in the second round of the 1973 NFL draft. When he retired in 1986 he had played 170 of his 171 professional games on the Saints' defensive line. He resides in Louisiana as a "part farmer, part businessman" and whole grandfather of three. Moore is one of the more than 4,500 retired NFL players to bring suit against the league over head injuries.
We didn't know these things, and we weren't told these things, when I was playing.
With all the head injuries and everything that we received, your chances of getting Alzheimer's and other kinds of disabilities from that, it's about 20 times greater than what the normal population is, especially since I played 14 years. I mean, if you get hit in the head every play—it's not exactly a concussion but, you know, it's a blow. And basically I don't want my family to have to lose everything to put me in a home.
It'd be different if the NFL was scratching by, but, I mean, they're washing money right now. And it looks like they would come around and take care of their own. I mean, we're cast aside like garbage. And you don't do that to people.
I got knocked out three or four times on the field. I don't remember. You know, they didn't diagnose concussions then. As soon as they woke you up and you knew you were in a football game, they put you back out there. There was no diagnosis of anything then.
There was one play in San Francisco. My own teammate got me. I got a knee to the back of the head. I couldn't even get up, and they put it on NFL Follies. I'm getting up and I'm falling down. They didn't take you out then. They expected you to play.
I'd say mine is more just the accumulation of all the hits. You know, I played nose tackle the last five years of my career, and you're right over the center. You're hitting head to head every play.
The public is not aware of everything that has gone on. The public thinks that we all made millions. I made $21,000 my first year in the NFL, in '73. $21,000. My best payday was $300,000, near the end of my career. And that's good money, but it's not the millions these kids are making today. Hey, I'm glad for them. I think it's great that they're doing quite well, but how about taking care of your own? I mean, we're not even addressed in any of this stuff. They ignore us like we're not even human beings. I think if the public knew exactly what was going on they'd be more on the players' side instead of thinking we've got all these millions and we're just getting greedy.
The NFL's a business and they've got to make money, but good Lord, I know some of the guys have some serious, serious problems. And right now they can't support their families. It's not right.
Knowing what you know now, if you could do it over again, would you still play football?
I don't know if I would or not. I had some experiences that were wonderful, OK? I sure as hell would take care of myself a lot better than what I did [laughs]. You know, you don't think about these things when you're young. You get older and it really comes back on you. Do I want my grandson to play football? I don't know. I just don't know. With the new rules and everything they have? Yes, it's getting a lot better. They're taking a lot better care of the players. The game has gotten a lot better and you can make some money that can set you up to where you can have a nice life. But it wasn't that way when I played. It wasn't the compensation that they're getting now. But as I said, I think it's great. I've got to have knees replaced here in probably six months, and there are some things going on, but yes, I probably would play. I probably would.
Rob Trucks was last seen on Deadspin interviewing former athletes about the end of their careers. His oral histories with 49-year-old Americans can be found at McSweeney's, and his latest book is on Fleetwood Mac's Tusk album.