Concussions Could Force John Carlson To Retire

John Carlson - Minnesota Vikings TE
Minnesota Vikings tight end John Carlson (89) against the San Francisco 49ers at the Metrodome. The Vikings defeated the 49ers 24-13. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Former Notre Dame great tight end John Carlson may have to call it a career just a little over a year after signing a $25 million/5 year contract with the Minnesota Vikings after suffering another concussion.  At minimum, Carlson’s 2013 season is over and his future is very much uncertain.

Carlson, one in a string of recent Notre Dame tight ends to be drafted in the first two rounds of the NFL, has had a successful NFL career playing for both the Seattle Seahawks and Minnesota Vikings.  Originally a second round pick of the Seahawks in the 2008 NFL Draft, Carlson spent his first three seasons in Seattle before signing with the VIkings a free agent deal with the Vikings in March of 2012.

The Vikings signed Carlson to his $25 million free agent deal a year after they drafted fellow Notre Dame tight end Kyle Rudolph in the 2nd round of the 2011 NFL Draft.  With Rudolph’s presence on the Vikings roster and emergence to Pro Bowl MVP status, Carlson’s role was reduced in 2012, but with Rudolph banged up in 2013, Carlson’s role increased with the Minnesota native hauling in 32 passes for 344 yards for his home-state Vikings.  Both were the most he’s had in a single season since his second season in the league.

Concussions, however, have been a problem for Carlson in college and the NFL.  Carlson recently declined to comment on how many concussions he’s had in his career in total, but the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that Carlson’s had at least five documented concussions – three in the NFL and two while in college – throughout his playing career.

His most recent concussion not only sidelined Carlson for the rest of the 2013 season, but has clouded his future as he ponders the health risks of additional concussions with his family this off-season.  Carlson and his wife have their third child on the way currently and will take his most recent concussion into consideration when they discuss his future this offseason.

“That’s something that my wife and I will consider,” he said. “After every season it’s an evaluation period because of the nature of our business. Players move around, players get cut, coaches get fired, things happen. So in that sense, every year is an evaluation period and this year will be no different. And the concussion part of it will be in that conversation.”

Concussions are one of the hottest topics in both the professional and collegiate ranks of football as more and more former players are discovering that they have suffered from degenerative brain disorders from their playing days.  Even with Carlson’s most recent concussion, he passed all of the mandated protocols from the NFL, but still didn’t feel well enough to play showing that even the NFL’s best efforts to make the game safer, concussions are an inevitable byproduct of a physical game such as football.

Hopefully Carlson and his family are able to make a decision this off-season that is in their best interests and thankfully Carlson has a degree from the University of Notre Dame in his hands should he have to walk away from the game of football a little earlier than he most likely planned.

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