There hasn’t been an abundance of good news for the Minnesota Vikings in recent weeks, but one piece of good news came out Wednesday, as the Vikings learned that starting left guard Alex Boone was through the concussion protocol that kept him out of last week’s game with Detroit.
For Boone, the news couldn’t come soon enough.
“I’m feeling better – thinking straight, clear,” Boone said. “I’m back to normal, whatever that means.”
Boone was frustrated with the parameters of the concussion protocol, but he is aware more than most of the long-term ramifications and the inherent dangers of playing football.
Staying off the field wasn’t something a competitor like Boone wants, but he said concerns from his family weighed into him being more patient about trying to push his return to the field.
“It’s annoying, but, you know what, I understand it,” Boone said. “It’s a process. This is a brutal game. It is what it is and sometimes you get hit in the head and things go wrong. I have kids and the last thing I want to do is have to have them take care of me at 35. It’s hard because I want to play and I want to do everything. But, at the same time, I’ve got to be a dad.”
Boone has always weighed the risks of playing the game and has come to terms with the fact that playing professional football is likely going to impact his quality of life down the line.
Like many players in recent years, Boone has learned about the significant health impacts associated with multiple concussions over the course of his career.
He is mindful that he has likely already done damage to his brain and that his decision to play football comes with a price. But, at the same time, his passion for football has allowed him to justify the potential long-term effects that playing a position that involves heavy collisions on virtually every snap as being a part of doing business.
“This is a brutal game and I’m at a position where you’re constantly getting hit in the head,” Boone said. “I know what’s going to happen to me someday and I’m not worried about that. I signed up for that a long time ago and I love this game more than anything. I know what’s going to happen but, at the end of the day, if I can help myself be smarter and be better, then I will.”
Boone’s frustration with not being able to be out on the field Sunday was a double-edged sword for him personally.
He had no love for the doctors who were constantly testing him and, worse yet, given his strong ties to the military, missing out on the Vikings’ game that honors the men and women of the armed services was even more of a source of pain for him.
“That drove me more nuts than anything,” Boone said. “You’ve got to be smart sometimes and, when you’re in the protocol, they won’t ever let you play until you’re cleared. The testing was just obnoxious. Whoever made that test is a real dick. You’re sitting in front of a computer for like 30 minutes answering questions. You think you do good and you don’t do good. It’s frustrating.”
While Boone has been cleared to come back to play, there will be a significant change in his game-day routine. At the urging of his family, he is finally going to use the newest helmets that players wear for additional head protection.
Boone is old-school in terms of how he has approached the helmet he is allowed to wear, claiming that he has worn the same style of helmet “since I could walk.” But, that is going to change.
“My wife and my oldest (child) asked me to try a new helmet because they don’t want to wheel me around when I’m 35,” Boone said. “I will be trying a new helmet and probably from here on out. My old one, the one that I love, actually isn’t made anymore. It’s one of the oldest ones you can wear and probably is the oldest one in the NFL. I’ve always worn it and I’ve always loved it. Now I have to upgrade to this new fancy thing and I’m not excited about it.”
The good news for the Vikings is that they have their veteran starting left guard back. The better news for Boone is that he is out of the concussion protocol and moving forward with a clean bill of health and hopes he never has to deal with the concussion doctors again.
“If I never deal with those people again, I’ll be fine with that,” Boone said.