Former Lions linebacker DeAndre Levy, who was released by Detroit this past March, once drew headlines for being outspoken when he called his "proudest moment" . He is now drawing headlines for being outspoken again, although for a much different reason: Levy recently testified before a Congressional subcommittee on the dangers of concussions and CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy).
During that testimony, Levy revealed that he received "two calls" from the Lions in which he was told he "shouldn't talk about" CTE publicly.
"The moment I said anything about it, I had two calls telling me I shouldn't talk about it," Levy said via MLive.com. "I don't know if it was because it was CTE, or if it was because it's just the general NFL rule of, like, only football. Only talk about football, only think about football. I posted simply the research ... and I was told not to talk about it the first day it was out. And I'm just, like, you know, it could have just been locker room culture. Nobody wants to talk about anything other than football. But it didn't sit well with me when I'm talking about brain injuries."
Levy testified that he believes owners, who he says are having "closed-door conversations" about the subject, are "trying to find ways to silence" NFL players on the dangers of playing football.
"It's my brain. It's not my shoulder, it's my brain. It controls everything I do, it controls everything we think, everything we feel," Levy continued. "And if I don't have the right to speak about that as a player, I think it really speaks about the culture of the NFL, of what those conversations are. I think that's indicative of the conversations that we don't hear. The closed-door conversations between owners. They still are trying to find ways to silence us."
Levy has previously written a letter to the Detroit Free Press in which he said that "silence is an action" as it relates to his public stance on CTE, openly questioning the league's stance on concussions and brain injuries that affect football players. So this is a natural follow-up to those previous comments. The difference is he testified, presumably under oath, in front of Congress, and he actively claimed that the Lions tried to silence him when he spoke out about CTE.
The Lions issued a statement to MLive.com in which they adamantly denied Levy's latest claims.
"We are aware of his comments and we strongly disagree with this claim that anyone from our organization tried to silence him," the Lions said.
Levy is currently also at odds with the team as it relates to his contract status. After, Levy battled injuries over the next two years before being released this past offseason.
The Lions' doctors passed him on a physical, paving the way for the team to not pay him $1.75 million owed as a result of an injury guarantee. Levy has since said that multiple doctors looked at his knee and said it's not healthy enough to pass a physical; he believes he's owed the $1.75 million from the team.
Levy also told the sub-committee that he received "Vicodin like Skittles" from the Lions' doctors.
"My first few years in the league, I could get Vicodin like Skittles," Levy said. "You can get toradol shots like it was nothing. Any anti-inflammatory painkiller that gets you through the week. As a player, it's on the doctor's hand to control that."
The fact that a Congressional sub-committee is involved and is able to get NFL players to openly testify about the concerns they have is probably not surprising. There are many more players willing to discuss the concerns about CTE than there were 10 years ago.
That's probably not a good thing for the NFL, although the most concerning thing here is a team potentially telling a player to be quiet about the issues surrounding CTE. The cover-up is always worse than the crime; NFL teams should embrace players being open about the long-term effects of playing football, even if it's detrimental to their business model.