Lem Barney was considered one of the best corners to ever put on pads, but since retiring from football he has changed his mind from being an NFL player.
“It was a joy for me. I enjoyed it. As a young kid football was my goal, my dream and my aspirations,” Barney said. “As I look at the slogan ‘healthy mind, healthy body’ it’s an oxymoron for the game of football.
“It’s very tough to have a healthy mind and a healthy body. You may go into the game with a healthy mind and a healthy body from its initial. It’s a very violent game from things have gotten stronger, bigger, faster, quicker, and a lot of cases more intelligent.”
As Barney sat next to various coaches during the press conference he described one particular evening where he was reading the Bible. The words starting “running like ants on the page.” As a result he started putting Visine in his eyes to help with his sight for about two or three months.
When Barney’s wife catches him taking Visine, she tells him to go see an ophthalmologist.
“I go see an ophthalmologist on the east side and as he was perusing through my eyes with the light he jerks up with fright on his face and turns off his light, he says ‘Lem when did you get these concussions?’” he says.
Barney would tell his doctor that he’s never had a concussion in his life. After further examination the doctor told him that he had probably suffered eight concussions while he played football for 21 years.
“People often ask me if I miss the game,” Barney said. “Wish I could still play with all the money that they’re making today.
“Even with the all that I’d say ‘Heck no.’ If I could start all over again I would be a truck driver, maybe a cab driver. Football wouldn’t be my choice as it was as a young middle school kid.”
Barney expressed his feelings about football sitting close to Michigan’s head coach Brady Hoke and Michigan State’s head coach Mark Dantonio as they were stunned hear what they were listening to.
“If I could play another opportunity in sports it certainly wouldn’t be football,” he said. “Again, I think, in the next 10-to-20 years [there will be] flag football instead of helmet-hitting football because the game has become that dangerous.”
Barney thinks that the game has become so violent that only people with a gladiator mentality would watch the game.
“The game is becoming more deadly today,” he said. “It’s a great game, and I think it’s the greatest game if you like gladiators.
“It’s the greatest game for yesteryear’s gladiators, but in the next 10 to 20 years, society will alleviate football altogether because of how strong it’s becoming, how big it’s becoming and the tenacity that it already is. And it’s only going to get worse.”