I was in ninth grade the first time I stared at the sun, not blinking.
I didn't really know anyone on my freshman football team, and our coach told us to line up for hitting drills. One guy, Dan, seemed to be struggling to find anyone to partner up with, so I volunteered.
One guy I knew walked past me and said quietly, "good luck, he hits like a freight train."
I thought he was just joking. The drill was simple, form tackle the ball carrier, switch up, form tackle again. It's a matter of some debate around those on the team whether the coach actually said "Go at half speed," but what's factual is I heard the coach say that, and Dan did not.
The feeling of being taken off your feet is one you don't forget, concussion or not. I do remember laying on the ground staring at the sun, thinking, "I should probably blink."
I was eventually helped off the ground, and I have been told I sat through the rest of practice, staring intently into space.
Back in the pre-concussion awareness days (roughly 13 years ago), coaches used the phrase "you got your bell rung" to diagnose most injuries. Coach Hermsen was adamant my bell was rung, and I could practice.
Yeah, that seemed right. Why not?
Coach Hermsen then says "And we're doing hitting drills again, and you'll be with Dan again." I suggested perhaps someone a little bit closer to my size, and not the guy who would end up being our varsity middle linebacker from sophomore year on.
Coach told me the only way to learn to ride the horse was to get back on it. Even at my young age I knew the metaphor was a bit mixed, but he still seemed intent on letting me die.
That dawned on me when I saw the Chiefs pop up on the Steelers' preseason schedule.
Whether it's fully accurate will never be known, but Steelers fans will remember the 2012 season as The One Roethlisberger Got Really Hurt. We know Week 10 against the Chiefs saw a quarterback who was playing some of the best football of his career get crunched between Justin Houston and Tamba Hali. We knew when teammaets started saying things like "I saw the look on his face and knew he was hurt bad," we might have been forced to bid farewell to the 2012 season right when the team was finally playing good football.
What worries me, outside of the seemingly intentional decision to put Roethlisberger against the same pass rush that more or less ended his season (he was never the same even after his return) in the preseason game he should take the most snaps, is the pass rush itself. There's obviously the physical worry, but what about the mental ones - the ones that may exist, or could potentially be created or increased?
What worries you about playing the Kansas City Chiefs Saturday?
More from Behind the Steel Curtain:
- Chiefs vs. Steelers Preseason Week 3 News and Updates
- Just another Jones in the Steelers' backfield
- Adrian Robinson for Felix Jones Trade: Everything we know
- 15 Steelers on the bubble heading into Saturday's game vs. Chiefs
- ESPN picks Steelers to miss playoffs
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- Robinson and Jones both pass physicals
- Steelers vs. Chiefs: Game time, TV broadcast and online stream info and more
- Pittsburgh gets another Class of 2008 running back in Felix Jones
- Steelers trade may have been about keeping Adrian Robinson in Pennsylvania
- Farewell, Adrian Robinson, you were our great, undrafted hope
- Steelers trade Adrian Robinson to Eagles for RB Felix Jones
- David Paulson hears fans cheering for Heath Miller when he catches a pass