PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Just a few years removed from playing NFL football, former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antwaan Randle El says he wishes he would have never played.
Randle El told our news partners at the Post-Gazette that the physical and mental drawbacks of having played in the NFL are so significant that he regrets playing.
"If I could go back, I wouldn't play football," he said in the Post-Gazette's look back at Steelers players and their life after football.
"I would play baseball. I got drafted by the Cubs in the 14th round, but I didn't play baseball because of my parents. They made me go to school. Don't get me wrong, I love the game of football. But right now, I could still be playing baseball," he said.
Former NFL player and now sports agent Ralph Cindrich says he doesn't agree with all of Randle El's statements.
"I understand what he's saying and I understand the other players out there, and I empathize with them, but I just don't share those same feelings. It permitted me to have an exceptional life," said Cindrich. "Most of the people that play in the NFL aren't privileged. This is their shot. This is their way out."
Randle El played with the Steelers from 2002 to 2005, and again in 2010, after playing for three years with the Washington Redskins.
He's best remembered for his 43-yard touchdown pass in Super Bowl XL that helped the Steelers beat Seattle.
Randle El told the paper that he has trouble walking down the stairs some days, and is suffering from serious memory lapses.
"I ask my wife things over and over again, and she's like, 'I just told you that,'" he said. "I try to chalk it up as I'm busy, I'm doing a lot, but I have to be on my knees praying about it, asking God to allow me to not have these issues and live a long life. I want to see my kids raised up. I want to see my grandkids."
In 2015, Randel El was one of more than 5,000 NFL players that received more than $900-million in settlement money from the NFL to resolve a concussion lawsuit.
He told the paper he could see the head injury issues resulting in the end of football entirely.
"I wouldn't be surprised if football isn't around in 20, 25 years," he said.
Some fans think the rules of the sport will continue to change, but the game of football isn't going anywhere.
"They'll change the rules around to accommodate what the general public will put up with," said one fan.
"I think that's ludicrous. You'll see the NFL. This is a multi-billion dollar business," said Cindrich.
Randle El joined the "KDKA Morning News" with Larry Richert and John Shumway Wednesday.
"Everything that I said that was in the [Post-Gazette] was prefaced by things I experience sometimes...the pain in my knees and my feet and my ankles, being able to come up and down stairs," he said.
He has concerns about his mental health as well and says he isn't sure if it is football or something else.
"Because I have so much on my plate, but because I played football it makes me think, am I having some of this…not remembering because of me playing the game of football?" he said.
Randle El said he wishes he knew what he knows now during his playing days.
"I think I definitely would have done some things different...when I knew I felt something wrong [during]whatever game I was in, I would've taken myself out [out the game]," he said.
Randle El added a better job needs to be done to get the word out to youth players that it is okay for them to come out of a game if they are hurt.
He is also still helping out the youth players in Pittsburgh, launching a campaign with ACH Clear Pathways, a group that helps them connect with the arts. More information on that project can be found at www.ACHClearPathways.org.
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