LS: Most athletes are living in a state of denial about their physical well-being. They're required to keep going while their body is signaling that they're injured. They're willing to risk their health with drugs that mask the effects of pain or simply ignore pain so as not to be called training-room players—or have their sense of commitment diminished in their coaches' eyes. When it comes to what's prudent to do with their bodies, they operate on a set of assumptions that are different from those of the rest of society.
SI: How do your clients react when you express concern for their health?
LS: They look at me as if I'm well-meaning but simply don't understand. The reality is that there's a nasty little secret at the end of most football careers: that a player will carry his physical disabilities around for the rest of his life. It'll be more difficult to pick up a ball, to tie his shoes, to play with kids. In 1981 I had three top draft picks: Kenny Easley of the Seattle Seahawks suffered degenerative kidney damage, Curt Marsh of the Raiders underwent a series of back operations, and Lomax had his hip replaced. Here are three guys in their early 30's who'll be partly disabled for the rest of their lives.
SI: You have some suggestions?
LS: Just some very simple rule changes. The big one concerns quarterbacks. By affording them the same protection in the pocket as the punter, we could cut down significantly on injury. I don't see any value in having a quarterback get hit after he's released the ball. There certainly isn't any dramatic value—the fans are watching the play downfield. Yet the NFL won't make this change, partly because it runs against the tough, macho instincts of the game.
SI: Have you polled your own quarterbacks on this issue?
LS: Yes, and they all disagree. But that's the whole point—they're in denial. They'd rather rely on their ability to escape and improvise. Which reminds me of motorists who won't wear seat belts because they imagine getting trapped by the belt in a fiery crash. Never mind that 99 percent of the time that doesn't happen. Football purists say the rule change would tamper with the excitement and violence of the game. I say anyone who's stirred up by the sight of an unprotected quarterback getting blindsided and slammed to the ground by a beefed-up 300-pound charging defensive lineman has missed his era. He would have loved watching Christians being fed to the lions.
SI: Which of those would you have preferred to represent?
LS: Which what?
SI: The Christians or the lions?