Hits to the helmet from 12 years as a Detroit Lions fullback have started to take their toll on Cory Schlesinger.
Now a high school teacher in Allen Park, Mich., Schlesinger admits to experiencing some minor memory problems he believes stem from head trauma suffered during his NFL playing days between 1995 and 2006.
"There are some residual (effects)," Schlesinger told co-host Zig Fracassi and me Sunday on SiriusXM NFL Radio. "I have to remember kids" names (as an industrial arts instructor). That’s kind of the thing. I have to remember things a lot more; I have to think about things more.
"I would say there’s a little bit of an effect in there."
Schlesinger said he isn’t bitter about this. He declined to join the almost 4,900 former players who have filed an unresolved class-action lawsuit against the NFL seeking damages for brain injuries.
"Football was good to me in the aspect that I played 12 years," said Schlesinger, 41. "It was a good job for that time."
Schlesinger also believes that part of his current health issues stem from the fact concussion-related technology and awareness wasn’t as good then as it is now.
"We are always learning," Schlesinger said. "Back in the day, it was considered weak to drink water. We’ve learned, "Wait, we need to hydrate the heck out of you guys to perform at your best." Now we"re learning all these isolation blocks aren"t really good for the brain … and what kind of effect they’re having.
"Would I (still) play the game? Absolutely. I still would have probably done it the exact same way."
Schlesinger, though, admits he likely would have tweaked the trademark blocking style that earned him the nickname "Sledge." Schlesinger estimates he broke more than 200 of his own face masks during his NFL playing days let alone the ones busted during his time at the University of Nebraska by leading with his helmet.
"The thing about breaking a face mask is you see what you hit," said Schlesinger, an NFC Pro Bowl alternate from 2002 to 2004. "That’s the proper way of doing it. You’ve got your head up. You’re seeing what you’re hitting. That’s probably the one that hurts less. I think when you get hit from the side or guys try to turn their head and hit somebody, that probably hurts a lot more.
"But doing it as many times as I did, it probably wasn’t the best thing to do. You’re supposed to strike with your fist first, but you know that’s not happening. I have a fairly large head and I’m going to use that as a weapon to get my running back through the hole."
Schlesinger hopes that he doesn’t develop more serious brain-related trouble as he gets older. But Schlesinger said he expects the NFL to "take care of my family" should he get "dementia or Alzheimer’s and it’s because of me playing the sport."
"I don’t want (doctors) to drain my bank with all the hard work that I’ve done for many, many years because of the money I put in (the NFL’s) pockets, too," he said. "That’s really what we’re looking for is them to take care of us if something does happen. I don’t want anything else if nothing happens."