For Pete's Sake

Neil Smith says given a second chance, he probably would have skipped NFL

Former Kansas City Chiefs star Neil Smith notified the Denver fans of his success after sacking Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway during a game.
Former Kansas City Chiefs star Neil Smith notified the Denver fans of his success after sacking Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway during a game. jledford@kcstar.com

Given a chance to go back in time, former Chiefs defensive lineman Neil Smith says he would have skipped football and joined the military instead.

Speaking with Danny Parkins and Carrington Harrison on 610 Sports radio on Wednesday, Smith said the accolades of his illustrious pro football career don’t mean much now.

“If I had it to all over again, probably not,” Smith said. “I’d probably go in another direction.”

Smith said he got a late scholarship offer to Nebraska in 1984, otherwise he would have joined the Marine Corps or Army.

Drafted by the Chiefs in 1988, Smith found out quickly that life in the NFL is tough.

“I remember my rookie year, I probably had like three (concussions) in one game and still played and had one the worst headaches of my life,” Smith said.

“Then you hear the trainers say, ‘Hey, if you keep having these concussions, your career is over.’ You say that to a 22-year-old guy that just made it to the NFL — you don’t want to hear that, so what do you do? You just don’t say anything.”

Smith, who said he suffers migraines, said he was encouraged by the NFL’s new procedures for dealing with concussions.

When he was playing, Smith said there was no structure to the amount of painkillers that he received from the team.

“If you asked for a certain pill that you wanted, they was given to you,” Smith said. “Not by one or two, but a small white box that might hold about 20 or 30 pills in it.”

Smith said he has suffered memory problems and had thoughts of suicide.

“I’m not like I used to be,” Smith said. “My memory — I can walk into a room sometimes and forget things, and I’ve got to walk back out and have to ask my family, ‘What’s going on with my head?’”

Smith said he has had two surgeries, one on his hip, since he finished playing in 2000 and plans on having two more.

It’s been a lot for Smith to deal with, even after he won two Super Bowls and went to six Pro Bowls in his 13-year career. He also is part of the Chiefs’ Ring of Honor.

But Smith wasn’t looking for pity. He was warning about the perils of the NFL.

“But I’m not feeling sorry for Neil,” Smith said. “It was something I did. I signed on to it.”

Thanks to 610 Sports for sharing the audio of the interview with Smith. You can hear the interview here.

To reach Pete Grathoff, call 816-234-4330 or send email to pgrathoff@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @pgrathoff.

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