Concussion-prone Best back with Lions
ALLEN PARK, Mich. — The Detroit Lions, logically, shouldn’t be counting on much from concussion-prone running back Jahvid Best.
Best suffered a severe concussion during his final year of college in 2009 and then two more concussions last season, limiting him to six games with the Lions.
Considering players are more susceptible to concussions with each additional one, it’s a little scary to think Best could be back on the football field taking hits again in a couple of months.
Best doesn’t sound like he’s that scared, though. He said the symptoms — headaches and confusion — subsided long ago, and he made a convincing case at times during an interview Monday that he’s going to be back and as good as ever.
“I have no problems so I’m not worried about anything,” Best told reporters while coming off the field following the team’s no-contact workout at the Lions’ practice facility. “This is what I do. I want to play football.”
Best, a second-round pick in 2010 from the University of California, said he thinks he will make the comeback complete because the two concussions he suffered last year did not compare to the more serious one three years ago when he tried to hurdle a defender and landed on the back of his head, unconscious, in the end zone.
“Not even close to the one I had in college,” Best said of the two concussions last season. “That’s why I’m not personally worried about it. If I can come back from that one, this should be a piece of cake.
“You get hit, you get hit. Boxers can’t stop from getting knocked out. You’ve got to just play.”
It’s not often these days that multiple concussions are viewed so nonchalantly, but that’s apparently what it takes to mentally be able to return to play in the NFL.
Although Best said he listens carefully to everything his doctors tell him, he hasn’t done any extra research to learn more about the issue and the potential ramifications.
“I don’t think I’m in that class,” he said.
The hope, of course, is that Best isn’t in denial.
Lions coach Jim Schwartz indicated he believes the club is dealing with Best’s injury properly.
“Everybody has a much better idea of how to handle things like that now,” Schwartz said, referring to the overall increased emphasis on concussions throughout football. “Even though there’s concern, I have a lot more comfort in the way we’re treating him now and the way we’re handling him.”
Best wants to move on, but he knows he’s going to get asked about his head injuries for “probably the rest of my career.”
“I’m prepared to answer questions forever,” he said.
Best hasn’t been officially cleared for contact yet, but he’s feeling well enough that there’s evidently a good chance he will get the go-ahead by the time training camp opens in late July.
“I’m thinking when we get closer to contact then I’ll get cleared,” Best said.
For now, he’s allowed to participate in all of the non-contact practices, including Monday’s 11-on-11 drill.
“The first OTA, I felt like I was a rookie again,” Best said. “It’s been so long. I’m excited to just get back out there. I’m definitely ready to go.”
He plans to test out different types of helmets during training camp to determine which one he thinks protects and suits him best. He’s also working daily to strengthen his neck muscles to try to help prevent further problems.
With a healthy Best, the Lions’ offense adds another major weapon to go with the high-powered passing combo of quarterback Matt Stafford and receiver Calvin Johnson.
Best emerged during the second week of his rookie season, rushing for 78 yards and two touchdowns and catching nine passes for 154 yards, including a 75-yard TD, against Philadelphia.
The game-breaking skills were on display again last season in a Monday Night victory over Chicago when Best broke an 88-yarder for a touchdown and finished with a career-best 163 yards rushing.
“He’s a home-run hitter, an explosive player,” Schwartz said.
The Lions plan to be careful with him even after Best is cleared for contact.
But at some point, if he’s going to play — and that’s the plan — then Best will have to prepare for what he’ll face in a game.
“There will be sometimes when we’ll be judicious in his use during training camp, but when he’s out there, he’s going to be out there like the other guys,” Schwartz said. “When you’re a running back, contact’s going to be a fact of life.”
When you've had three — if not more — concussions in the last three seasons, that's a harsh reality.
But it's one that Best is obviously willing to accept.
Receiver Titus Young wouldn’t answer specific questions concerning his fight with teammate Louis Delmas, but he did meet with the media for the first time since the incident.
“I’m fine with everybody,” Young said. “We (he and Delmas) was just joking in the training room. He just kicked my foot up in the training room. I laughed at him. Just joking around. You know, brotherly love, man.”
Young did not participate in OTA workouts two weeks ago after reportedly sucker-punching Delmas.
He indicated his time away helped put some things in better perspective. He said it was a “blessing” to be back on the field.
“Time heals all wounds, I believe,” Young said. “Any time you go through anything, maybe you need some time off to sit back and think and reflect, and think about the city of Detroit, think about the kids who wish they were in my position right now, think about the owner of the organization, Mr. Ford, think about what he invested in me.
“You know, just think about a lot of things that you really can’t think about sometimes when you’re sitting in the situation.”