Ted Johnson’s Choice to Speak Out on NFL Concussions Turned Him Into a Pariah, Until It Turned Out He Was Right

In 2007, Houston’s Ted Johnson was shelled by Patriots fans when he told the story of his own repeated concussions in the NFL and the damage they did.

"When I gave that interview about how the Patriots mishandled my concussions, I knew I was putting my legacy and everything on the line," Johnson says. "I burned a lot of bridges doing that."

Alone, depressed, divorced, concussed. For Ted Johnson, that was the bad time.

Sadly, there is a list of concussed former NFL players who reach this fork in the road and choose tragedy. Thankfully, Ted Johnson was not one of them. He spent time in rehabilitation, rededicated himself to physical conditioning and moved to Houston, where today he co-hosts a talk show with me on SportsRadio 610.

Ted Johnson, broadcasting at the most recent Super Bowl, spent the final three years of his NFL career battling dozens of concussions.
Courtesy of CBS News
Ted Johnson, broadcasting at the most recent Super Bowl, spent the final three years of his NFL career battling dozens of concussions.

Johnson is very open about the ups and downs of his life in and after NFL football, so much so that the Houston Texans had him share his story with their entire class of rookies on June 3. Indeed, though once he was an NFL pariah, Johnson's story has now made him an honored guest.

Looking back, despite the dark places it dragged him, Johnson knows his New York Times interview in 2007 was a huge turning point for the league in concussion awareness. It pulled the curtain back on the culture of concealment and abuse throughout the league. "The story came out the Friday before the Super Bowl, which helped maximize the impact," Johnson recalls. "I feel like I played a big role in where we are now with all of this."

And where we are now is a much safer game, according to Johnson.

"It's like night and day from when I played. We now have mandatory baseline testing for concussions with all 32 teams. That's huge. Every team has a neurologist on the sideline. That's also huge," he says.

"Most of all, players are just better informed. Nobody is going to force a player with a concussion back onto the field. What happened to me won't happen to somebody else, and that's what I wanted when I did that New York Times interview."

When Ted Johnson exposed the Patriots' negligence in 2007, fans called him a traitor. In part because of Johnson's forthrightness helping to pave the way, former players doing exactly the same thing in 2014 are called plaintiffs.

"I see where we are now, how much safer the game is, so I would definitely still do the interview again," confirms Johnson.

"I sleep well at night."

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/Sean­Cablinasian or email him at sean.pendergast@cbsradio.com.

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