Detroit Lions: D’Andre Swift’s injury hits close to home

Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports /

The injury to Detroit Lions rookie running back D’Andre Swift is quite concerning, but it’s also something that hits close to home.

Just one game after the organization finally committed to utilizing their talented young running back as a three-down franchise back, D’Andre Swift suffered a concussion.  In that Week Ten matchup with Washington, Swift galloped for 81 yards on 16 carries along with 68 receiving yards on five receptions.  Swift also played a career-high 73% of the Detroit Lions offensive snaps.

Many Detroit Lions fans, rightfully so, immediately think of what happened to Jahvid Best.  Best had been a highly touted running back, a dynamic playmaker, a track star, and a dual-threat weapon out of the backfield.  Unfortunately, Best’s career was cut short due to a concussion before it even really got started.

Like Swift, Best after earning a starting role enjoyed a career day running all over the Chicago Bears, looking like the franchise running back the Detroit Lions had drafted but suffered a concussion the following week in a game against the San Francisco 49ers; Best would never play again.

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Now, let’s not overreact.  I’m in no way, shape, or form saying Detroit Lions running back Swift’s career is in jeopardy, but I am here to mention a concussion certainly can end a career in a hurry.

I wanted to take a second to share my story with concussions with you; maybe come of you can relate?

Please understand I am not comparing myself to a professional athlete or myself to D’Andre Swift; I’m simply sharing my story, my experience.

Like many of you, my football career ended the second I graduated high school.  I was never going to make it at the college level, and perhaps I had a home for a few years at the travel level where I could play until I was 20-years old but opted to head into the workforce instead.

The fact is I still loved football, but as hard as it had been to admit, my head could not withstand the punishment.  I think a person just knows when it’s over.

I suffered my first known concussion during a team practice.  It was during the famous Oklahoma drill; for you who played, you know exactly what I’m referencing.  We called them ‘Okies,’ and we loved the drill.  For those of you who don’t, it’s simply chaos.  The drill is an offensive lineman lining up against a defensive lineman with a ball carrier on offense and a linebacker or defensive back lurking behind the defensive lineman.

As the coach yells hut, the defensive lineman tries to shed the block and make a play on the ball carrier. As the running back tries to navigate their way past the offensive block, the linebacker or defensive back fills and makes a tackle.  Oh, and there are bags placed in the form of a shoot about four yards wide.  Players are not permitted to run outside that area; that’s the havoc I recently mentioned coming into play.  If you were a speed demon, there is nowhere to hide.

It was grade 10; I was playing defense in the drill; as the linemen tangled, a grade 12 starting fullback who had about forty-pounds on me flashed, lowered his shoulder, and as I lunged to make a tackle, I received the brunt of his shoulder to my head.

The lights turned off.

I had been a four-year starter in high school. I played safety, wide receiver, a gunner on kickoff, and part of the hands’ team on the kick return.  I was never the best player on my team, I wasn’t the fastest runner, I had never been the most athletic, but I hung my hat on being a hard worker.  Like many of you will understand, those teams were like family. Like most families, there were certain disputes, life lessons, and hardships along the way, but little did we know that we were actually building the foundation of a lifetime brotherhood.

My work ethic and motivation skills awarded me the teams’ defensive signal-calling duties.  After coming off of what I’ve always considered my most productive year, I entered my senior season with tremendous expectations.  Those expectations had been derailed fairly early on.

In one of the first games of the season, I was creeping up from my safety position to help in run support.  A talented tailback came bursting through the line of scrimmage, and as I met him in the hole, his knee struck the crown of my helmet at full speed.

Once again, the lights went out.

I remember being assisted off of the field but putting up a fuss about removing my wrist band that had all of the defensive play calls on it.  I hated leaving the football field, but my night was over, even though I had lobbied to return all evening.

That night I remember getting home, laying in bed feeling extremely nauseous.  Feeling nauseous in sports is a normal thing, usually leading up to the start of an event; it’s those famous butterflies scampering around in a persons’ stomach.  This was different; I felt extremely ill, so much, so I had been forced to relieve myself multiple times throughout the evening.

A couple of days later, I returned to the football field but did not participate in any hitting drills throughout the week.  The following game, I leaped, meeting a running back (helmet-to-helmet) at the top of a pile as our defense had been unsuccessfully trying to make a goal-line stand.  It was late in the football game, and although the lights didn’t turn out again, I certainly felt woozy.

I noticed after; my reaction time had fallen way off.  Playing defense, I found myself guessing more than I had at any time in my career.  I wasn’t reading the play as I had before.  On offense, I wasn’t running sharp, clean routes.  My out routes were bending rather than presenting a clear target for the quarterback.  I forgot to work back to the football, something you are taught from day one as a receiver.

I didn’t recognize it at the time, but my diminishing skills, the on-field performance, and multiple concussions played a significant role in what would come next.  I fell into a slight depression, which really stemmed from the shots taken to the head but also being utterly disappointed in myself.  I foolishly never missed a game.  Concussions were considered ‘stingers’ at the time.

It’s great to see all of the extra precautions in place these days as the game continues to revolutionize into a safer product.  The equipment is better; the targeting rules are in place to deter players from tackling high.

Later in life, I was in a car accident, I needed a CT Scan along with various other procedures.  I’ll never forget the surgeon showing me a handful of pictures as he diagnosed me with another concussion saying; how did you get all of the other concussions?  Football.

That is my experience at the high school level, and although I’d never trade my experiences for anything, we need to understand that football is a dangerous game.  It’s a lifestyle to many athletes but let’s not forget they are also human.

The injury to D’Andre Swift and remembering Jahvid Best brought back some not so fond memories of my own. I can only hope Swift, along with anyone who suffers a similar injury, can make a full recovery.  I’m also happy to see the Detroit Lions sit Swift in Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears.

At this point of the season, it’s best to proceed with caution regarding Swift.  The Detroit Lions spent the 35th overall pick in 2020 on their franchise running back, and they need him to remain healthy so he can enjoy a long prosperous career.

And for the record, the only thing I struggle with at times today is finding the words I want to say during the odd conversation.  My friends or wife will sometimes have to finish my sentence; it doesn’t happen all of the time but it is certainly noticeable at times.

Next. Lions need to proceed with caution regarding D’Andre Swift. dark

I would love to hear your personal experiences, please comment and share them with us.