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Curtis Martin played with head injuries, doesn’t blame the NFL

Jacksonville Jaguars v New York Jets

EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - SEPTEMBER 25: Curtis Martin #28 of the New York Jets carries the ball during the game with the Jacksonville Jaguars on September 25, 2005 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Jaguars won 26-20. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Curtis Martin

Al Bello

Curtis Martin, the former Jets and Patriots running back who is about to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, says he suffered “a lot” of concussions during his NFL career, and he became “an expert at covering it up.”

But at a time when thousands of former players are suing the NFL over concussions, Martin seems to view them more as an unfortunate reality of a long career than a reason to feel bitter toward his former employer.

This was just the mentality, it’s no fault of the NFL or anything, it’s just a part of the game,” Martin said today, via Jenny Vrentas of the Star Ledger. “When I would get hit, they knew that I popped up just like that, every time I get hit. . . . Any time that I didn’t pop up, my fullback knew to come pick me up because I was probably either dazed or knocked out.”

Martin believes the NFL is going to have a tough time changing the culture because football players don’t like being told that they need to sit out, even if it’s for their own good.

“The NFL not only has to deal with the fact that the game is changing and there are these real-life concussions and problems with health in the NFL,” he said, “but at the same time, they have to try to do everything around a player’s pride, around a player’s selfish motives or goals or whatever it may be. That’s something it just seems impossible to do. . . . I don’t think there’s anything they can do to prevent it. What can you do?”

The biggest challenge the league faces right now is figuring out what you can do to make football safer, without fundamentally changing the game.