Of the many injuries suffered during the 2015 NFL season, the neck injury suffered by Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Ricardo Lockette has to be the scariest. Lockette was on punt coverage during a November 1, 2015, road game against the Dallas Cowboys when he received a “blind side” hit from Cowboys safety Jeff Heath.
The completely legal hit resulted in Lockette suffering severe neck ligament damage. It was a scary scene for a few minutes in Cowboys Stadium as Lockette lay completely motionless on the field for several minutes. Eventually, he was carted off and then taken directly to a hospital for immediate neck surgery.
Not too surprisingly, Lockette decided to retire after the 2015 season. The neck injury was cited as 50% of the reason behind his decision. Lockette goes into further detail in a recently released column on the Players Tribune, where he confesses to wondering if he was about to die.
“It was terrifying. I couldn’t hear the crowd. I couldn’t hear my teammates. That’s when I knew it was bad.
I was thinking, O.K., get up. Just get up.
But I couldn’t get up. My whole body was numb. I couldn’t move my arms. I couldn’t move my head. I couldn’t talk.
All I could do was move my eyes. I was thinking:
Am I deaf?
Am I paralyzed?
What is going on?
Am I about to die?”
Lockette goes on to describe the vicious hit in his post and to go into his reasoning behind deciding to retire from the NFL. A big part of his decision came from a promise he made to God “to change lives” if he survived the hit.
The post makes for real insightful reading as it makes it very clear that Lockette is grateful for his life and he’s now been to able to put the important things in life in perspective. Though Lockette’s NFL career is done, this hit will forever be used as one of the arguments for why the NFL should abolish kickoff and punt return plays. Even with a totally legal hit, a man came close to dying on the football field.
There’s just some inherent dangers in the sport that cannot be protected from no matter what and Lockette’s hit is a sobering reminder of that fact.