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Barry Sanders Describes Players Getting Back On The Field After Concussion Because They Were ‘Fighting For A Job’

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Barry Sanders #20 former Detroit Lions running back looks on from the tunnel prior to being honored at half time during a game against the Kansas City Chiefs on Dec. 23, 2007 at Ford Field. (credit: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Barry Sanders #20 former Detroit Lions running back looks on from the tunnel prior to being honored at half time during a game against the Kansas City Chiefs on Dec. 23, 2007 at Ford Field. (credit: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

JonHewitt Jon Hewett
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DETROIT (WWJ) Former Detroit Lions great Barry Sanders showed up at an Allen Park High School event Thursday to honor Jake Barron, a 4.0 student and captain of the Jaguars football team named one of the 10 finalists for the U.S. Army Pro Football Hall Of Fame.

Like he did many times before, Sanders stole the show.

The man who averaged over 1,500 rushing yards per season took time to weigh in on retired running back Tony Dorsett, who, it was revealed in reports Thursday, showed signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy — CTE — which is caused by head trauma.

Sanders said Dorsett was someone he always looked up to.

“I hope the best for Tony, he’s a guy I looked up to,” Sanders said. “I remember his senior year at the University of Pittsburgh, he was one of the guys I was looking up to.”

And then he talked about concussions, a hot topic in the NFL. Sanders said it’s a much different situation than he faced as a player.

Then, the players decided on their own the extent of the injury, and when they would return to the field after a head-ringing blow.

“How do you feel today? Are you getting any better?” Sanders said, describing the questions players were asked. “God forbid, it’s a guy who’s fighting for a job, who wants to prove he’s a tough guy and he just wants to get back onto the field. It’s a tough situation.”

He added there’s still a lot to be learned about concussions.

“Fortunately and unfortunately we’re in sort of the developmental stages of understanding all this and most of us played the game for many, many years before we even get to the NFL,” he said.

“I’d always hear about guys that had trouble later on in life and no one at that point had really pinpointed, ‘OK what exactly is going on here.’ At least now we have professionals, experts involved in this. I played in the ’90s and back then, yeah, we kind of understood what a concussion was, but pretty much everything was left up to the player.”

He applauded the effort to get more help for NFL veterans, saying “I think all parties involved are at least taking steps to get players diagnosed, doing what they can to protect current and former players.”

After long shying out of the spotlight following his sudden departure from the Lions, Sanders appeared in a Pepsi commercial this summer mocking his unexpected retirement. He also gave a lengthy interview to CBS Sports about his life and career. And he appears on the cover of Madden 25.

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