When Lance Briggs entered the NFL, rookies weren’t thinking much about concussions, head trauma and the overall health of their brains.
The first priority was getting your career and life together after being a broke college kid simply trying to make ends meet.
“There’s a lot of mental challenges for every player,” Briggs said. “When you get drafted you’re a broke college kid so you’re not necessarily thinking about ‘How my brain going to be once I start playing this game?’ You’re going from trying to make ends meet and making sure that your rent is paid on time and your phone bill is paid and making sure you’re paying your part of the utilities. Now you’re playing football and you’re able to get your own place.”
Briggs played 12 years for the Bears and was a seven-time Pro Bowler. He said mental toughness was “one of the key ingredients to surviving in football.”
As the years went on and he started to see more examples of concussions, he started to think more about the risks.
“You don’t think about that until you’re in the back end (of your career) or if you’re a guy who’s taken off the field a lot for concussions,” Briggs said. “You start seeing guys left and right and you think about the position that you play and you think about all the contact that you’ve had and the role that you play in the head game.”
No matter how tough players were in their careers, Briggs admitted to seeing it get to anyone.
“It’s a lot of physical wear and tear on your brain,” he said. “As we’ve seen in the past there have been some that have taken their own lives and there are a lot of men who have struggled.
“Whether you recognize it or you don’t recognize it, it’s a part of all of our lives.”
Watch more from Briggs in the video above.
This is all part of a larger message and project from the NBC Sports Regional Networks. Religion of Sports — the media company founded by Tom Brady, Michael Strahan and Gotham Chopra — has partnered with NBC Sports regional networks for a new one-hour documentary addressing the issue of mental health in sports. “HeadStrong: Mental Health and Sports” is executive produced by six-time NFL Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall.
“Mental health issues have been pushed to the forefront of our national conversation,” Ted Griggs, president, Group Leader and Strategic Production & Programming, NBC Sports Regional Networks, added. “Thanks to athletes like Brandon Marshall, Kevin Love, Michael Phelps and Missy Franklin, and executives such as NBA commissioner Adam Silver, we know that our sports heroes face mental health challenges, just like so many others. We hope this project will advance that conversation and show people that resources and assistance are available to everyone.”