Byron Jones, a former UConn football player and current eight-year NFL veteran, recently shared some interesting words about his experiences in the NFL and the impact his career has had on his body so far.
Jones was a standout athlete as a husky, playing for the school as a safety and cornerback from 2010-2014. He was eventually drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft shortly after breaking the world record for the standing jump at the 2015 NFL Combine. Jones became a star in the NFL, where he won one Pro Bowl in 2018 and one in 2020 Five-year, $82 million contract with the Miami Dolphins. Despite his early success, last season didn’t go too well for Jones.
In March 2022, Jones underwent off-season surgery to repair a heel injury that had plagued him through the 2021 season. It is normal for professional athletes to have off-season surgery to remove the wear and tear that has been causing problems. In almost all cases, these athletes are ready for training camp. Jones’ situation did not appear any different when the Dolphins were told he would be scheduled for the first day of training camp in July. Unfortunately this was not the case. Not only did Jones not play in training camp, but he also missed the entire 2022 season as a result of this surgery. This left many people confused as to what was going on with the former star’s health. The whole situation seemed mysterious. Then, on February 25 of this year, Jones addressed the concerns of his fan base.
Jones revealed what he’d been through by responding to a tweet from the NFL celebrating his world standing long jump record in 2015 this tweet, he claimed he still “can’t run or jump” due to his offseason surgery and the wear and tear from playing eight NFL seasons. He advised fellow players: “DO NOT take the pills they give you. DO NOT take the injections they give you. If you absolutely must, consult an outside doctor to learn the long-term effects,” Jones noted. He later went on to say, “Thank God for the Class of 2023.”
It’s no secret that American football is a dangerous game. People still choose to play it, in part because of the millions of dollars (in some cases hundreds of) that professional soccer players make. But lately there has been a growing awareness of how dangerous this sport is. CTE has become a hot topic of discourse in the league, along with head injuries in general, as seen in this year’s Tua Tagovailoa situation when the QB was thrown back onto the field too quickly after suffering a concussion. So it’s definitely remarkable to hear a current NFL athlete chime in on this debate.
It’s certainly a big deal that Jones blames the NFL’s medical treatment for his ongoing problems. That he still can’t run or jump is alarming. He’s apparently trying to convey that the injections, pills and treatments he received to recover from his off-season surgery are largely to blame for his struggles. This ties into an ongoing discourse seen not only within the NFL but in most professional sports leagues, where those leagues view their players as business assets rather than people. The NFL wants its players to recover from injuries as quickly as possible so they can get back on the field and bring more revenue to the NFL. This mindset allows the NFL to give these players ineffective drugs or treatments that have drastic side effects, as seen with Jones.
On the other hand, the former UConn star’s struggles might just be the result of years of practicing one of the most dangerous sports on the planet. These athletes willingly sign up for a sport that involves actively putting their bodies at risk every day, and they are paid significantly for it.
Still, it’s important for Jones to caution the upcoming NFL rookie class of 2023. Even more timely than his tweet, it was announced that the Dolphins are planning to release the former star and potentially raise his retirement age to just 30 if he isn’t able to get dressed again. This whole situation raises a big question: will we see fewer people playing football in the near future due to what seems to be increasing risks?