By: Will Burchfield
Haloti Ngata will be back for another season with the Lions, but only because he has been assured his brain can handle it.
Before deciding to play in 2017, his 12th season in the NFL, Ngata consulted a neurologist at the behest of his agent.
“I went and talked to a neurologist, wanted to make sure my head was good, all that,” Ngata told reporters on Thursday. “He said everything was pretty good, really good actually. I was like, ‘All right, I’m going to keep on playing.’ My wife was like, ‘I guess so.’ ”
Ngata, 33, underwent a two-week series of testing at the CORE Institute in Brighton, a process that included scans, psychological tests and brain examinations. As the connection between football and long-term brain damage becomes harder and harder to refute, Ngata wanted to ensure he isn’t in danger of becoming the next cautionary tale.
“With all the things that going on with brain stuff throughout the league, you definitely keep an eye on it. You hear that stuff and you don’t want to have problems when you’re older,” he said. “I want to be able to raise my kids and be able to play with them when they’re older and still be able to beat them in wrestling matches and stuff when they’re teenagers.”
Ngata doesn’t have a history of concussions, believing he’s only suffered one throughout the course of his career. Refined technique has helped him keep his head out of harm’s way.
“I used my head a lot more when I was younger, but I think I was just being young. Then you learn how to use your hands better, position yourself better and just understanding pad level, stuff like that,” he said. “For me, it was just a process, becoming better with my hands and a better technician.”
Ngata would like to see neurological testing become a standard routine throughout the league.
“The better we can get some of these athletes to go out and get their brain checked,” he said, “it’s just better and safer for everyone.”