Former Steelers WR regrets football career


Antwaan Randle El had a pretty successful NFL career, all things considered. Now the former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver is saying that he wishes he could take it all back.

Randle El played two stints with the Steelers, first from 2002 to 2005 and then again in 2010. In nine career seasons he tallied 15 touchdowns, 4,467 receiving yards and at one point was a great kick returner.

He may be best remembered for the touchdown pass he threw to Hines Ward in Super Bowl XL against the Seahawks:

While that memory will stick with many Steelers fans for a long time, Randle El is probably not too proud of it.

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The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette recently ran a feature on life after football for a number of former Steelers players. Randle El says that he’s struggling from the toll that his NFL life took on his body. He has trouble with memory lapses and even walking down the stairs:

“I have to come down sideways sometimes, depending on the day,” Randle El, 36, said. “Going up is easier actually than coming down… I ask my wife things over and over again, and she’s like, ‘I just told you that,’ ” Randle El said. “I’ll ask her three times the night before and get up in the morning and forget. Stuff like that.

It’s a sad story that we’re likely to hear repeated more and more in the coming years, as we learn more about the effects of degenerative brain disease that go hand in hand with playing football.

Randle El went as far to say that he wishes he could take it all back. Given the choice, he would have played baseball instead, as he was drafted by the Chicago Cubs at one point. These days he’s the athletic director for a Christian high school in Virginia he helped found. Apparently he axed the football program after decided it was too expensive.

Maybe there’s more too it than that. Randle El says that this next generation of athletes are bigger and stronger than before, so the concussions are only going to get worse.

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Last year San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland shocked the sporting world by announcing his retirement after playing only one season. He said he decided that the risk of brain injury was just not worth it.

Borland likely won’t be the last player to make that call.

The NFL has a lot of issues to deal with in the coming years, but this remains the number one obstacle to the sport’s growth. More has to be done.