Legendary NFL cornerback Lester Hayes bucked the majority of current and former players, telling CNN that the concussion issue facing the NFL can only be blamed on the players themselves.
In an interview with Terrence Moore, Hayes said, “It’s all on the players, not anybody else, because the players have the same gladiator genes that existed in Rome over 2,000 years ago. They have a love of football to the tenth power. So the players make the final call. Trust me. No matter what they are told by doctors or anybody else, they will fight to play.”
The NFL has attempted to combat the rising concussion rate among players — and the long-term effects of those concussions — by making the game safer and fining players for head-to-head collisions. The recent rule change — which shifted kickoffs from the 35-yard line to the 40-yard line to decrease the violence of hits — reflects this movement.
Many former players have sued the NFL seeking damages for long-term injuries — most notably brain trauma — suffered during their playing years.
Hayes was a staple of the fearsome Oakland Raiders defense from 1977-1986, and was known for punishing opponents with violent hits. Hayes won the Super Bowl twice, was a two-time Pro Bowler and was the 1980 Defensive Player of the Year. Hayes went by many exotic nicknames during his playing days, notably “the judge,” “Lester the Molester,” and “the only true Jedi” of the NFL.