Jacksonville Jaguars Linebacker Russell Allen has decided to leave his NFL career behind after learning what he originally thought was a concussion he suffered in a December matchup with the Buffalo Bills was in fact a stroke. In an interview with SI’s Monday Morning Quarterback, he said the collision with Bills center Eric Wood has resulted in a brain injury so severe that he can no longer risk the violence of professional football.
The hit, Allen said, was no different than any other and after feeling something flash, he just walked back to the huddle and continued playing, thinking he had just gotten his bell rung. He said after the game he still felt off and even experienced double vision, but did not realize the gravity of what had happened until days later, after alerting team medical officials that he was still experiencing headaches .
Allen was put through a battery of tests over the next several days, including an MRI. The news he received was dire. The impact of that Dec. 15 hit had left a tear in the layers of the artery wall that supplies oxygen to the brain, leaving a portion of his cerebellum the size of a dime completely inactive. He was advised to never play football again. Unable to pass a physical, Allen was cut by the Jaguars last week after five NFL seasons, bringing to an end a promising career that was just beginning to flourish
“What I’ve learned from this is that it’s not something to be overlooked,” he told MMQB. “If it feels like something is wrong, something is wrong.”
Allen says he now feels obligated to educate players who could potentially dismiss a brain injury as something far more innocuous.
“Guys say all the time that they just got their bell rung,” he continued. “It’s happened to me maybe ten times in my career, feeling woozy for a second after a hit…I want someone to know my experience so they can know when they experience something similar.”
Ironically, Allen replaced a Jacksonville teammate, linebacker Clint Session, who was dealt a similar fate in 2011. After suffering a concussion from a hit he took in a game against the Cleveland Browns that November, Session opted to stay in the game and then suffered a second concussion shortly after. He later said he knew something was not right, but did not tell anyone and just shook it off because he wanted to win. Session was placed on injured reserve two days later and never recovered. He retired soon after.
Allen attended Vista High School in North San Diego and won a state title as a sophomore. He then stuck around Southern California to play for his hometown San Diego State Aztecs beginning in 2005 and put up solid numbers, totaling 375 tackles in four years. However, Allen went undrafted in 2009 and ultimately found himself trying out with Jaguars, going from special teams to backing up the linebacking corps, to eventually becoming a starter. In 2012, he led Jacksonville with 131 combined tackles and 107 unassisted.
Commentary by Rick Sarlat