Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

Austin Collie Wants To Play Again, But He's Missing The Point

Remember Austin Collie? He's the once-promising Indianapolis Colts wide receiver who for a time seemed poised to replace Brandon Stokely as Peyton Manning's go-to slot receiver. He's also the guy who was concussed twice in 2010—once on the vicious hit you see above, and again just one month later in a game against the Jaguars. Collie has suffered at least three concussions in his career (another came during the preseason last year), and only played in one game last season before rupturing his patella tendon. Despite all of this, Collie is troublingly insistent on getting one more shot.

Collie's wish to get back into the league is troubling for the simple reason that he is looking at his comeback all wrong. He seems to be treating his recovery like it is just a run-of-the-mill rehab process, the kind that any other player with a busted joint or torn ligament would go through. From USA Today's Mike Garafolo:

At a time when the return of his former quarterback, Peyton Manning, from a serious neck condition was lauded, Collie wonders why he can't come back from his head injuries and a major knee operation? Why can't he be—and this is the word that really gets Collie going—selfish?


The problem with equating Collie's concussions with Peyton Manning's neck injury is that only one of those ailments is something that one can truly recover from. Manning got surgery, rehabbed, and slowly strengthened his diminished muscles until he was able to step on the field again. There's no such process for healing brain trauma, no surgery or rehab program that can repair the damage that has already been done. It's misguided for Collie to think that Manning's comeback can be a kind of blueprint for his own. There's really no such thing as "coming back" from three concussions.

Collie's dad, a former CFL player, seems to be missing the point, too:

Scott wasn't surprised to know Austin still wanted to play football. He's known how resilient his son was for quite some time.

Scott often tells the story of how he took his son Zac to the batting cage when Austin was only 4 years old. Austin stood on the plate and his father warned Austin he'd get hit with a ball if he didn't move, but Austin was persistent.

Scott told Zac to drop the quarter in the machine and, sure enough, the first pitch plunked Austin. He didn't cry; he took a step back and whacked the next pitch.

I suppose this anecdote is meant to show us that Collie's innate ability to overcome pain through mental toughness is driving his desire to get back on the field. But again, Collie's toughness has nothing to do with his ability to handle the affects of previous concussions. There's no pain or physical weakness that Collie must overcome in order to play again, no barking muscle in his brain that he can tame with grit and determination.

Concussions are already a huge threat to the careers and health of NFL players, but they are even more so when those players see them as an ailment that is analogous to conventional injuries. Austin Collie has every right to want to step back onto a football field, but he should do so understanding that he isn't like every other player returning from injury.


[USA Today]

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