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Saturday, November 2, 2013
Two-minute drill: Al Toon

By Rich Cimini

Our weekly Q & A is with former New York Jets wide receiver Al Toon, whose son, Nick, will play for the New Orleans Saints Sunday at MetLife Stadium.

So, Al, what will it be like seeing your son play against your old team? Will it be weird?

Toon: It's a unique situation for any family. It's unique to have a child in the same arena, wearing the same number (88) and playing the same position -- even though it's for a different team. It's pretty cool. Hopefully, he can take it like any other week and perform as well as he can, and not add any psychological or emotional pressure just because it's where I used to play. That's what I conveyed to him.

So you had a father-son chat about the game?

Toon
Toon: Yeah, it lasted about 30 seconds. I told him, 'Do your thing, perform as well as you can.' The other stuff is cool, but it's irrelevant.

Nick can look up in the stadium and see your name in the Jets' Ring of Honor. That sort of thing doesn't happen every day.

Toon: It is special. Those are the things we talk about and reminisce about -- the induction ceremony (in 2011), when he was there. It's a snapshout in our history, something we can reflect back on. But his focus needs to be on his job and the moment. That's what he's paid to do.

Wouldn't it be something if the crowd brings back the old "Tooooon!" cheer if he catches a pass?

Toon: (Laughs) Yeah, I think that would be kind of cool, but I don't think you'd hear that from a Jets crowd.

It's hard to believe, but it's been 21 years since you retired at the age of 29 with post-concussion syndrome. I know it was tough for a period of time, but how are you, physically?

Toon: I've been very blessed. I'm recovered to a point where I'm able to function relatively normally. Occasionally, I have issues, but I've been fine. What more can you ask for?

What kind of issues?

Toon: I don't want to get into that. It's medical information, and it's very personal. I don't want people to feel sorry for me. I'm loving life, day to day. I know people are curious about me, but enough of my information is out there.

How do you feel about the way the NFL is handling the concussion issue?

Toon: It's a major step. It has been the flavor of the day for a while. The players and owners have taken significant strides in trying to improve the playing conditions for the athletes. They're recognizing the seriousnes of concussions and post-concussion syndrome and the neurological issues that go along with having concussions. They're implementing rules that are beneficial to the players.

Would you have played football if you knew then what we know now about concussions?

Toon: Sure, I was passionate about the game. We weren’t ignorant to the fact that we could get concussions while enjoying this profession. It was part of the game, part of the risk you took. It's like being a deep-sea scuba diver. There's risk, but they get paid very well, and I got paid very well. There are a lot of positives. It opens a lot of doors for you.

So what do you make of your former team this season?

Toon: You just never know what's going to happen. Some teams you just know aren't very good. At the same time, other teams you know are really good. This team is on the fence. There were a lot of question marks about the quarterback situation and about Rex Ryan's future, but they've been hanging in there. I think Rex is very entertaining. Woody Johnson is a smart guy and he knows how to be successful. There's no quesion in my mind this will work out.