Kris Jenkins has a lot to say about his 10 seasons in the NFL. He did just that in a wide-ranging interview with The New York Times, sharing his thoughts on playing with concussions, the use of human growth hormone in the league and the violence of the game.
At the forefront of the interview conducted with Jenkins was the topic of injuries, and the mostly unspoken toll they take on players' bodies.
Jenkins says fans should take his word for it.
"NFL. fans, people outside, they have no clue what goes on," Jenkins said. "This isn't like playing Madden. This isn't like being the popular kid in high school. When you do those things in the real world, and it don't work out, you still have your health. The thing about football is you're directly playing with your life, the quality of it and the longevity of it. The stakes are up there.
"You ever been in a car crash? Done bumper cars? You know when that hit catches you off guard and jolts you, and you're like, what the hell? Football is like that. But 10 times worse. It's hell."
Jenkins had four major operations during his career and said he suffered more than 10 concussions since the start of college, but "nobody cared."
He chose to retire before the 2011 season after knee injuries cut short his final two seasons with the Jets. The ability to play through injuries is partly due to players being "conditioned to feel no pain," said Jenkins, but the results are no doubt long-term.
"The brain fog? It still hasn't stopped," Jenkins said. "It feels like you're punch-drunk, like someone hit you over the head. It's like you knock yourself stupid. When you have to concentrate on things, then it becomes an issue. My head gets foggy to the point where I really can't function."
Jenkins doesn't ignore the fact that football, and playing through injuries, was a conscious decision.
Knowing what he knows now about the toll of football, Jenkins said he "wouldn't change anything."