Ex-Falcon Ray Edwards says boxing safer than football

Ray Edwards made news this week, but once again it had nothing to do with his ability to play professional football.

First, in early November, the Falcons cut the defensive end for a poor attitude more so than for poor performance. Then, in February, he made news again when a video surfaced of his doughy-looking opponent taking a dive during a boxing match. 

Earlier this week, Edwards was at it again. Edwards, who received $11 million guaranteed from the Falcons for producing 3 1/2 sacks in 25 regular-season and playoff games combined, told Yahoo Sports that he thinks boxing is safer than football. Funny how injuries never seemed to be an issue during Edwards’ NFL career. He missed only eight games in six and a half seasons before the Falcons cut him. 

Sometimes, as they say, where a man’s paycheck (or lack thereof) comes from tends to influence his beliefs. Remember that, in December, the Seattle Seahawks brought Edwards in for a workout. They had lost one of their top pass rushers, Chris Clemons, to a season-ending injury. Edwards was still available when the Seahawks played the Falcons in an NFC divisional round playoff game in January. 

Did the Seahawks sign him? No, instead they signed Patrick Chukwurah, who had not played in the NFL since 2008. 

Now, to give Edwards the benefit of the doubt, it’s possible that he told the Seahawks he was giving up on football. That’s what he told Yahoo. According to the story, Edwards insists he has no plans to return to football even if an NFL team offered him a lucrative contract.

Perhaps Edwards’ thinking has evolved. But apparently he wasn’t thinking that way in December, otherwise it stands to reason he would not have gone to work out for the Seahawks. 

To this correspondent, Edwards’ words sound a lot like a smoke screen. 

It is convenient to say that you are giving up on football because it’s more dangerous than boxing if you are not getting any offers to play football anymore. 

Certainly, Edwards wouldn’t be able to get a better offer now than what he was making while playing for the Falcons. The market has changed greatly in the past year or two. Michael Bennett, a much more productive player than Edwards last season, signed a one-year contract with Seattle for a reported $5 million in March. Bennett, who is the same age as Edwards, had seven sacks with Tampa Bay in 2012. Edwards had zero in nine games. 

Yet in some ways, Edwards’ thoughts on the relative safety of football vs. boxing make some sense. 

“In boxing,” he told Yahoo, “you know where the hits are coming from — it is the guy stood in front of you. In boxing you might break your hand or break your nose and if you get knocked out you can get a concussion. But also, the referee is right there and you are more protected. In football, you never know. The game moves at such a pace that you might never see it coming. You can get hit when you are completely defenseless.” 

That’s hard to argue with. 

What’s easier to argue with are Edwards’ claims that he can have a longer career as a boxer than he could as a football player. 

“In boxing, Floyd Mayweather has been at the top for 16 or 17 years, and guys like Bernard Hopkins are still going even into their late 40s,” he told Yahoo. “I am 28, but by staying as disciplined as I am and maintaining my condition I can have a long and successful career in this.” 

Equating the average boxer to Mayweather is like equating the average NFL player to Darrell Green, who played 20 years in the league, or Jeff Van Note, who played 18 seasons. If Edwards wanted to look at an example of longevity in the NFL, all he had to do was look down the other side of the line to see a true professional in John Abraham. Abraham, who just turned 35, posted a team-high 10 sacks last season. 

During Edwards’ time with the Falcons, Atlanta head coach Mike Smith constantly made excuses for him. “Sacks don’t matter,” Smith would say of Edwards’ lack of production, vainly trying to convince the media. (Smith still says this but he no longer says it in reference to Edwards.) 

Privately, Smith had little use for Edwards. 

It is believed that the Edwards signing represented one of the few times when Smith and general manager Thomas Dimitroff were not on the same page in reference to a key roster move. When Edwards ignored Smith during a team meeting, as reported by FOX Sports’ Jay Glazer, that was the last straw. 
Poor attitude and poor production are not a formula for longevity. 

It will be interesting to see how that formula fares for Edwards in an individual sport — whether it’s safer or not.