Is $245 Million Worth Broncos Quarterback Russell Wilson’s Brain Damage?

In a terrifying moment when life disappeared from the frozen eyes of Russell Wilson, his head planted in the turf by the force and fury of a 272-pound tackle, the Denver stadium fell silent with the guilt we try to bury for our love of a brutal sport.

When a TV camera caught the dazed, leaden eyes of a crumpled Wilson near the goal line, a stupid game score didn’t matter, ending the losing streak against Kansas City didn’t matter, football didn’t matter.

All that mattered was that a father of three could stand up because two young boys and a girl needed Wilson’s hugs far more than the Broncos wanted a win on Sunday to avoid playoff elimination. of the NFL.

The Broncos gave Wilson $245 million to play quarterback and risk shaking his cerebellum until he was 40.

Are you sure it’s worth the brain damage?

It’s a risky business. We all know that. And, yes, Wilson signed up for the blood sport. The voluntary nature of the deal doesn’t make it any less nauseating to watch when a man who’s father first and quarterback second gets his lights turned off.

The bravest man in that 34-28 loss to the first-place Chiefs was Wilson, who nearly rallied the Broncos from a 27-point deficit, trying to pull off the biggest comeback in history. of the franchise, until he was concussed by a tackle from Kansas City lineman Frank Clark at the end of a 14-yard run early in the fourth quarter.

“I watched him after the play,” Clark said, “and I see him screaming and stuff like that.”

We toast to the football warrior who puts his body on the line. Having been educated on the horrors of CTE, however, we cover our eyes and pray for the best when a player suffers a brain injury.

Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson (3) walks off the field after being injured against the Kansas City Chiefs at Empower Field at Mile High in Denver on December 11, 2022. The Broncos lost 34-28 to the Chiefs . (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post)

“He put his body on the line, man,” said Brett Rypien, who replaced Wilson at quarterback. “You can say whatever you want. We are 3-9, they are 9-3. The guy is out there putting his body on the line, fighting to win the game. He’s the kind of guy I want to follow.

For all his quirks and a few cringe-worthy expansions of his brand, there’s no doubt that Wilson is a winner. For the first time since joining the Broncos, he demonstrated why the team rolls with him. After throwing a pick six in the first half, Wilson finished with 247 passing yards and three touchdowns. DangerRuss dominated Patrick Mahomes. And isn’t that why the Broncos traded him?

But now is the time for the Broncos to protect their considerable investment in the veteran quarterback, and perhaps protect Wilson from himself. With this 10th loss of the season officially snuffing out Denver’s slim playoff hopes, there’s no reason to rush Wilson into the field. Let his brain heal. Let his body heal. Let his spirit heal.

If Wilson doesn’t play another snap in the next four games, when the Broncos only play for pride, I’d be okay with that. And you?

“He’s in concussion protocol now,” Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett said. “So we’re going to take this process step by step and do it the right way.”

Nothing that happens the rest of this season, not even the thought that general manager George Paton has to give Hackett about whether Hackett should be a one-time head coach, is as important to the future of this franchise. than Wilson’s health.

We can be sure that Wilson will try to get back on the pitch as soon as possible. With a large tuft of grass embedded in his helmet after rushing less than 2 yards from the goal line, Wilson was unwilling to leave the field with Denver trailing 34-21.

Although wobbly and obviously concussed, Wilson attempted to return to the Denver group before being escorted to the sideline and the blue medical tent by team personnel.

The natural and inflexible instinct of a football player can be dangerous for his own health. My friend Mike Boryla, Philadelphia’s 1975 Pro Bowl quarterback, now a Colorado playwright and outspoken critic of sports violence, issued this lament 90 minutes after the Broncos’ loss to Kansas City: “How leave football gracefully before they kill you?”

Rather than suffer more of the ravages of football that left him in chronic pain, Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck retired at age 29 in 2019. Earlier this season, Miami suffered a scrutiny for what appeared to be a callous approach to a head injury suffered by quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. , who was held off 23 days after the Dolphins were blasted by intense criticism.

Faced with the frustration of the season’s eighth single-score loss, Broncos linebacker Jonathon Cooper tried to sort through his emotions in the locker room, before admitting, “My head is all messed up.”

While it’s easy to empathize with Cooper’s emotional pain, his quarterback’s concussion is a much bigger issue. Forget football. At this point in Denver’s season, straightening Wilson’s head is all that matters.

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