CLEVELAND -- The difference between then and now as it pertains to the handling of head injuries in the National Football League is night and day according to defensive back Joe Haden.
Then was in 2010, when the Browns spent a first-round pick on Haden after he had a standout career at the University of Florida. And now, after having multiple concussions in his seven-year NFL career, Haden feels the information available to players is “1000 percent” more in-depth than it was previously.
“I feel like the one big thing that we're understanding now and that the NFL is giving you information,” Haden said.
“At first, I didn't hear anything ever about concussions. I would say in the past two, three years, I've had the most information, the most people talking to me, the most getting understanding, understanding baselines, than I’ve ever had playing football in my career. I just feel like being aware and not feeling like you’re being blindsided is going to help a lot of people.”
Unfortunately, through experience, Haden has learned much about concussions.
The 2015 regular season was a frustrating one for Haden, and it was one that reached a premature ending because of a second concussion in the span of a month.
Haden was concussed for the first time in a 33-30 overtime win at the Baltimore Ravens on October 11. Then, after missing two games from that first concussion, Haden suffered his second head injury in a 34-20 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on November 1.
On December 14, 2015, the Browns placed Haden, a two-time Pro Bowler, on injured reserve because of the second concussion, which kept him out of seven straight games before the team made the decision to shut him down for the year.
After suffering the second concussion, Haden went to Pittsburgh to see a specialist and come up with a regime that could get him back onto the field in a safe manner, which he did in 2016. And as long as more complete information on concussions is made available to players, Haden feels confident in continuing his NFL career.
“I think with the more research and the more testing that they do and the more aware that the players are with understanding what's going on, making sure that we're getting checked, getting your baselines, understanding where you’re at,” Haden said.
“I think a lot of is knowledge. At the end of the day, this is a game that we love, that we choose to play. Definitely, I think the biggest thing that they've been doing is just letting us know what's going on, keeping us informed. I love the game. As long as I'm aware of it, I feel like there's not too much that will stop me from playing ball.”