Watters, now suing NFL, was a gamer

July, 24, 2012
7/24/12
5:55
PM ET
Running back Ricky Watters, then with the Philadelphia Eagles, suffered a "mild concussion" against Indianapolis during a 1996 game.

Nothing unusual there. Back then, before concussion awareness would become part of the public discussion and Watters would join the growing list of retirees suing the league, players returned to games following head injuries more freely.

"As he was falling to the ground, Watters was hit in the head by the right knee of Colts linebacker Trev Alberts," the Philadelphia Inquire reported following that 1996 game. "Watters stayed on his knees, clinging to tight end Jimmy Johnson. After staying on the field briefly, Watters was helped to the sideline, his legs wobbling noticeably."

Watters, who began his career with the San Francisco 49ers and ended it with the Seattle Seahawks, reportedly suffered the injury late in the first quarter. A team doctor and trainer "hovered" over him in the bench area.

"Two minutes later, Watters jumped up and hopped around the sideline," the Inquirer reported.

Watters returned to the game with nine minutes left in the second quarter.

Snapshots such as this one do not necessariliy prove wrongdoing by the NFL or its teams. They do take on new meaning in retrospect. Then as now, players want to tough it out.

Watters did embrace the warrior's mentality. He was one of the most demonstrably passionate players I can recall covering. He was tough and durable, playing through painful injuries, including turf toe, while starting 116 consecutive regular-season and playoff games, a streak that trailed only Walter Payton's 170 games at the time.

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