Laurent Robinson bringing awareness to concussions
Laurent Robinson wants to educate football players about technology available to diagnose concussions.
By KEN HORNACKFS Florida
ROCKLEDGE, Fla. — When Laurent Robinson agreed last summer to become involved with a manufacturer of wireless impact sensors that can be placed inside football helmets, he had no idea how quickly the issue of player safety would impact him.
Four concussions later, the former
Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver was back Wednesday at the high school that he helped lead to state championships in 2001 and 2002. This year’s version of the Rockledge Raiders will become the first team in Florida outfitted with devices that can alert players, parents and team staff when a hit is too hard.
That's not to say Robinson, a third-round pick in 2007 by the Dallas Cowboys who caught 11 touchdown passes for them the year before he signed with the Jaguars, plans to call it a career just yet.
“I’m feeling great,” he said near the school’s practice field that’s named for him. “That’s one thing I can say. All the time off has helped me out a lot. It’s helped my brain to settle down and relax, not having to run and lift weights all the time. I’ve been feeling great the last month or so, and I’m just waiting on the next opportunity now.”
Robinson’s market representative, Brian Bradtke, put him in touch less than a year ago with a company based out of Canada called Impakt Protective. Its CEO, Danny Crossman, took the software technology he used during his time as an Army bomb disposal officer to create Shockbox, which sends live data through a Bluetooth transmitter to standard smartphones up to 325 feet away.
Rockledge will have 15 such 5-inch devices available to be put inside its helmets. Up until now, Crossman had made it available primarily to Pop Warner football and college hockey teams.
The concern in recent years around the NFL about the cumulative effects of multiple concussions, along with what happened last season to Robinson, could lead to further preventative measures.
“In a way, it highlighted the issue — an NFL receiver who gets some big hit to be able to put his hand up and say, ‘Look, this is a big deal, getting hit in the head,’ ” Crossman said. “We’re not going to take out tackling. We’re not going to kill the sport. So, how do we manage it properly?”
Robinson’s first concussion took place during training camp. That was followed by two more in games within a week of each other and a last one in November, which ended his season for good.
“There’s no day limit on it,” he said. “I passed the impact test online and tried to go out there and give it a go. I just wanted to play. I have a love and passion for the game. And I wanted to play so much that I chose to go out there. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a very good decision in the long run.”
With a new coach and general manager following a 2-14 season, the Jaguars have wasted little time ridding themselves of some of their recent veteran pickups. Robinson was released before they drafted wide receiver Ace Sanders out of South Carolina in the fourth round but also before the news that the league was suspending Justin Blackmon for the first four games of the 2013 season.
“I knew I wasn’t 100 percent,” he said. “I was even telling the trainers that I wasn’t feeling good the day before they even let me go. For them to do that was a real shocker to me. But I’ve taken it well. It’s the NFL. You never know what’s going to happen. You’ve just got to be ready for the next move, and that’s what I’m doing.”
Robinson said his agent, Harold Lewis, has been in touch with him about where his post-Jaguars career might lead.
“Teams are calling,” he said. “Teams are interested. We’re just taking this offseason getting healthy, getting my body healthy, clearing my mind. Hopefully we’ll get that call soon.”
In the meantime, he wants to do whatever he can, whether at the high school or professional level, to heighten awareness of player safety.
“I still think players are kind of scared to talk about it because they just don’t want to have concussions,” Robinson said. “They want to be out there playing. They want to be that tough guy — just shake it off, take a couple of plays and then come back in there. It’s only hurting yourself long term. That’s why I needed to take the initiative.”