SOUTHFIELD, Mich. (WXYZ) - Lem Barney made a living playing football, going down as one of the greatest to play the game. But the Hall of Fame cornerback spoke Friday at a football camp and said he'd rather be a cab driver than play football again.
Barney was a speaker at the Sound Mind, Sound Body youth football camp in Southfield on Friday along with Michigan's Brady Hoke and Michigan State's Mark Dantonio. But Barney's words are what caught people's attention.
"The game is becoming more deadly today," he said. "It's a great game, I think it's the greatest game if you like gladiatorism. It's the greatest game for yesteryear's gladiators. But I can see eventually in the next 10 to maybe 20 years, society will alleviate football altogether."
Barney has been very vocal about the game the past few years, critiquing the danger of football. He is also one of the thousand suing the league over concussions. Recently he said he thought head injuries played a part in the death of Hall of Famer Deacon Jones.
A seven-time Pro Bowler during his career with the Lions, Barney thought he finished his career without enduring a single concussion. But after he retired and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1992, he began having problems reading so he went to an ophthalmologist.
It turned out after later tests that Barney had suffered between seven and eight concussions during his career. This changed his whole outlook on the game of football. Barney said he even tried to convince his son and grandson to stop playing football. His grandson, Lem IV, plans to attend Jackson State, to play football.
The coaches alongside Barney on the panel seemed taken back by his comments. Hoke and Dantonio both spoke about the risks to the game but emphasized proper tackling and safety at the camp.
"You look at guys like Bubba Smith that left us, Dave Duerson that left us, Junior Seau as of late, that are killing themselves because of the head injuries they had," Barney said. "You hear about guys who played in championship games, Pro Bowlers and Super Bowls, but you don't hear about the regular Joe who plays the game and has killed themselves. The game is deadly today."