Print and Go Back ESPN.com: AFC East [Print without images]

Monday, February 15, 2010
Thomas (mercifully) ready to retire a Fin


As someone who once served a couple terms as president of the Boxing Writers Association of America and covered the National Hockey League for seven years, I've encountered my share of athletes -- some still active -- who cope with diminished mental states because of head trauma.

But in the past two weeks I've heard a few of the most bizarre stories about the impact of repeated concussions.

The most fascinating was New England Patriots tight end Don Hasselbeck's history. He told me he'd suffered at least 20 concussions, and each time he regained consciousness he thought he was waking from his first concussion in high school.

Hasselbeck is among the growing number of active and retired NFL players who are donating their brains to the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at Boston University School of Medicine.

Zach Thomas, the Miami Dolphins' iconic linebacker, is another.

Thomas hasn't played since Kansas City Chiefs training camp last summer but told the Miami Herald he's still experiencing problems, "including fuzziness when it gets cold."

Miami Herald writer Barry Jackson reported the all-decade linebacker would like to re-sign with the Dolphins for a day so he can retire in aqua and orange. Thomas has no intention of playing again, which is comforting.

Thomas had become known as a concussion-prone player before the Dolphins released him in January 2008. He played in only five games in 2007 because of an on-field concussion that was aggravated weeks later by a fender bender.

He insisted on leaving the game on his own terms and signed with the Dallas Cowboys, playing all 16 games and starting 14.

"They labeled me with that, as prone for concussions," Thomas said during Cowboys camp that summer. "Everybody just thinks I'm some guy out here that's punch drunk, running around."

He then tried to latch on with the Chiefs and suffered another concussion. The Chiefs soon cut him. A grievance filed in October over his release is pending.