By: Will Burchfield
"You just gotta play through it."
It's a common refrain in NFL locker rooms, one that captures the league's attitude toward injuries. When players are hurt, they're expected to grit their teeth and stay on the field.
It's a man's game, right?
Lately, though, more and more players have been questioning this standard - and none more so than the Lions' DeAndre Levy.
In March, Levy penned an impassioned plea in the Detroit Free Press urging the NFL to be more up-front about the connection between football and the brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). On Thursday, he was quoted in Men's Journal lamenting the league's habit of pushing compromised players back into action.
Levy has experienced symptoms of CTE in recent years, including memory loss and stuttering while reading aloud.
"It's frustrating," he told Men's Journal, "because you put your body on the line, and the people that you're working to make money for, they prioritize profit over the health of their greatest assets, and as a player that's troubling."
Levy isn't the first Lions player to voice misgivings about the team's medical practices. In July, the recently retired Calvin Johnson suggested he played through concussions at the training staff's discretion.
"Early in my career if you talked about a concussion, everybody would try and hush you up real quick because the team would get in trouble if they didn't diagnose a concussion that you might have got in a game," Johnson told ESPN's Michael Smith. "It's clear to see when you get a concussion, man."
Lions head coach Jim Caldwell has presided over teams that rostered both Johnson and Levy. If either of them played through injury at the risk of their long-term health, it's possible - indeed, even likely - that they did so under Caldwell's watch.
Caldwell was asked on Friday about the team's responsibility to injured players, particularly in regard to allowing them back on the field.
"Number one, like I've mentioned thousands of times before, coaches don't make those decisions," he said. "Those decisions are made by a team of medical experts that know far more than you or I. They've studied it for years, it's what they do for a living.
"They take a look and if they deem a player's not capable or able to play for us, that has some difficulty, in any way, that brings harm to that player, player safety is the number one issue. They will not allow him to walk out on the field."
The tricky part about diagnosing CTE is that its symptoms typically don't arise until years down the line. Caldwell seemed to touch on this on Friday, adding that, in certain cases, he believes higher powers are watching over his players.
"There may be some things that are unforeseen, that don't show up for years, or whatever it might be," he said. "I think the good Lord has a hand in some of those things as well. But nevertheless, that's our end of the bargain that we have to make certain we uphold from a medical standpoint. And like I said, I think our guys do a tremendous job of that."
Earlier this season, it was reported that the injured Levy had been cleared by some doctors to play, but not others. Until he received full medical clearance, he would continue to sit out.
The report was shot down by Caldwell, who called such information "nonsense."
Levy returned to practice on Wednesday for the first time since Week 1.
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