Jimmy Kennedy, a former Penn State defensive tackle and first-round NFL draft choice, joked and chatted during Wednesday’s practice — but he also addressed some more serious topics afterward: chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), injuries as a whole and the mindset of a football player.
The 2002 first-team All-American, No. 12 overall pick by the St. Louis Rams in 2003 and eventual Super Bowl champion met with media members outside the practice gate following positional drills. It was there he took some time to reflect on the culture of football.
“It’s ingrained in us to not complain,” Kennedy said when asked about former Penn State teammate Larry Johnson opening up about his CTE struggles. “From the time you start to play this game to the time I turned pro, I would have a coach look at me and say, ‘The best ability is availability. You’re a first rounder. Pick it up. Let’s go.’
“When you see stars, it’s like, ‘All right, let’s go.’ When I hit somebody and my eye got stuck, and I’m literally like, ‘All right, next play.’ I’ve got plates in my hands and thumbs, but I’m going to play two more plays because I don’t want the guy to know that it’s broken. It’s ingrained in us. ... That’s just what it is.”
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Kennedy said “you go through the ups and downs,” and he has for sure. Kennedy, who now lives in Arizona, said he has had two strokes since retiring — on top of back surgery and knee operations because of his football career.
“But Arizona is great for arthritis,” Kennedy said with a laugh. “So I’m enjoying it out here.”