Antwaan Randle El says he regrets playing football, in part because the 36-year-old now has difficulty walking down the stairs.
"I have to come down sideways sometimes, depending on the day," Randle El said in a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story on former Steelers Super Bowl winners. "Going up is easier actually than coming down."
In a follow-up interview with "The Dan Patrick Show" on Wednesday, Randle El clarified that while he has pain on stairs, he wanted people to know he wasn't near death as he feared has been portrayed after the story.
"If you're playing this game of football you have to know what you're getting yourself into."
Antwaan Randle El on what he tells young people about football
"It's real, it is what it is, but I got to preface a couple of things I want people to realize. I'm in no way dying, keeling over, struggling to get around, anything like that," he said.
"If you look at the article it expresses that sometimes I had these pains when it comes to going up and down the stairs and more importantly down the stairs and sometimes I have to put two feet on a step when I'm going down a step because of the pain I'm experiencing in my knees and in my ankles and in my feet."
Randle El was a hybrid player before it was made popular by the Tim Tebows of the world. He was an elite quarterback at Indiana before being drafted as a wide receiver by the Steelers in 2002. He was an All-Pro in 2005, and in 2006, he became the only wideout to throw a TD pass in a Super Bowl.
Despite that success, he wishes he wouldn't have chosen football.
"If I could go back, I wouldn't," he said to the Post-Gazette. "I would play baseball. I got drafted by the Cubs in the 14th round, but I didn't play baseball because of my parents. They made me go to school. Don't get me wrong, I love the game of football. But right now, I could still be playing baseball."
In the interview with Dan Patrick, he said he doesn't regret playing football, pointing out that he won a Super Bowl with the Steelers, was compensated well in his career and was given a platform to reach young people after his career. He again said that if he had a do-over, he would choose the "different path" of playing baseball.
As for his NFL career, Randle El said in the radio interview that he regrets playing injured, something he wouldn't do now that he knows more about safety.
"And that's one thing I want to be able to reach the young folks, the Pop Warner and even in high school and even in college that, 'hey, if you get dinged, get nicked up and you get hurt, it's OK to come out of the game. It's OK to come out and get somebody in there,'" he said.
Randle El, who retired in 2012, says he has mental limitations to go with his physical issues.
"I ask my wife things over and over again, and she's like, 'I just told you that,'" Randle El said to the newspaper. "I'll ask her three times the night before and get up in the morning and forget. Stuff like that. I try to chalk it up as I'm busy, I'm doing a lot, but I have to be on my knees praying about it, asking God to allow me to not have these issues and live a long life. I want to see my kids raised up. I want to see my grandkids."
He told Patrick that those memory issues could also stem from the fact that he has six children and also has started a foundation and a Christian school in Virginia. He admitted that he wonders what role football has played in his memory problems.
At first that school in Virginia had football, but funding issues forced it to cut the program. Families complained, and although Randle El understood where they were coming from, ultimately he was glad it worked out the way it did.
"The kids are getting bigger and faster, so the concussions, the severe spinal cord injuries, are only going to get worse," he said to the newspaper. "It's a tough pill to swallow because I love the game of football. But I tell parents, you can have the right helmet, the perfect pads on, and still end up with a paraplegic kid.
"There's no correcting it. There's no helmet that's going to correct it. There's no teaching that's going to correct it. It just comes down to it's a physically violent game. Football players are in a car wreck every week."
In his interview with Patrick, he said the message he has for the young people he advises is: "If you're playing this game of football, you have to know what you're getting yourself into."