INDIANAPOLIS, IN - NOVEMBER 13: Austin Collie #17 of the Indianapolis Colts runs with the ball while defended by Paul Posluszny #51 of the Jacksonville Jaguars at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 13, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Jaguars won 17-3. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
I will give Colts head coach Chuck Pagano credit.
Unlike when his annoyingly dull predecessor (Jim Caldwell) was faced with a similar situation two years ago, Pagano admitted to the media today that receiver Austin Collie had indeed sustained a concussion against the Steelers Sunday night. When Caldwell was repeatedly asked these sorts of questions about Collie back in 2010, the year Collie sustained THREE concussions in six weeks (not two, and I'll get beat writers like Phil B. Wilson to back me 100% on that), Caldwell pathetically dodged them. Then, in violation of league rules, the Colts front office denied media access to Collie even though he was still on the active roster.
That was then. This is now, and one of the things this new regime in Indianapolis is focusing on is transparency. They also don't make it a point to demean and belittle media every chance they get. Thus, Pagano was upfront about Collie's concussion this afternoon. Bravo.
However, it does concern me that Pagano's tone suggested we would see Collie on the field again. That's a mistake. A BIG one. My reasons are in-line with what Josh wrote earlier.
Austin Collie should not be playing football for the Indianapolis Colts, or any other team, ever again.
I don't care how fast Collie still is, or how reliable his hands are. I don't care that he's one of the few quality veterans left on this young team, or that he's developed good chemistry with Andrew Luck. Doesn't matter. Four dingers in two years is too much. His history of head injuries makes it next to impossible to root for his continued employment with the Colts as a player because, as fans, we all know what the next hit could do.
Already, these concussions will dramatically alter Collie's quality of life after football. Go read this piece on Jeff Herrod. Or this one on Ted Johnson. Or this fatally tragic one involving Dave Duerson. I'm not saying Collie will put a gun to his chest when he turns 40, but all the problems that haunted Duerson, and that still haunt Herrod, Johnson, and one-time Jets wide receiver Al Toon will most likely plague Collie as well.
And this is if he stops right now, not after concussions five, six, or seven. Concussions he is sure to sustain if he keeps playing. Medical science tells us that once a person sustains one concussion, they are twice as likely to receive another one. If they've had two concussions, then a third one is two-to-four times more likely. If they've had three, then three-to-nine times! The one Collie got on Sunday was his fourth. Do the math. He WILL get dinged again if he keeps playing, and when it happens, it's possible he may not get up.
Knowing this, how can you or me root for him in a Colts uniform? How can we cheer a man's self destruction? How can we support a franchise that allows him to play Russian roulette with his brain?
Yes, football is physical, and it takes a toll on the body. So does firefighting, coal mining, and furniture moving. However, unlike those other occupations, football is, at its core, entertainment. There is nothing entertaining about watching a player you know is one head injury away from forgetting his own name or controlling his own bowels.
I think we've reached the point now where the Colts need to make a decision, and that decision should be to let Collie go. Forcing him to retire isn't an option. Teams cannot force a player to quit football. This is, after all, America. What they can do is refuse to encourage Collie to continue his professional football career. If they continue to pay him, if they trot him out there and he gets his brains bashed yet again, then (in my mind) the Colts are responsible.
Release him, and if he gets picked up by another team, Collie and his head injuries are their responsibility. Not the Colts. This is, of course, assuming Collie is bonkers enough to want to play after the Colts release him because of all these head injuries.
Collie has had a good four-year career, earning roughly $1,230,000 in salary and $327,000 in bonus money so far. 2012 is the final year of his rookie contract. He'll reportedly get paid $1,308,000 and $109,000 in bonus money this season. If he stays on the roster after the 53-man cutdown, that money is guaranteed for 2012. Jim Irsay should give him an injury settlement (perhaps the remaining base of his contract) and then let him go. That, or simply stash him on the roster until after cutdown day, then place him on IR. Do NOT put him out there in live games. When the season is over, don't re-sign him.
That's the smart, humane thing to do both for the Colts and for Collie. I'm not writing this because I hate the guy. I'm writing this because I cannot continue to support him in the uniform of my favorite team. I don't want to see him hurt. Not like this. Jesus, the guy has a wife and kids!
Again, it doesn't matter if Collie wants this or not. His head injuries are too much. He has to go. If you disagree, if you think it's OK for Collie to go out there in a Colts uniform and get knocked out yet again, I honestly don't know how you can live with yourself.