Throughout his 13 seasons in the NFL, Harry Carson was known as one of the most ferocious inside linebackers in the game. Carson recounts his football career in Captain For Life, as well as his years after retirement.
Harry Carson played 13 seasons for the New York Giants, beginning in 1976. During the worst of those seasons, the Giants were terrible, but in 1986, they won the Super Bowl. Carson played linebacker beside Lawrence Taylor and was voted on to nine Pro Bowl teams.
Carson retired after the 1988 season. Following a delay, which lots of those who knew Carson and were familiar with his work regarded as mysterious, he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2006.
Carson reports in Captain For Life that he began sustaining concussions as a high school player. Even before he retired from the NFL, he was sometimes experiencing headaches, problems with his eyes, and trouble concentrating. After he retired, he was diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome. He has devoted a considerable portion of Captain For Life to the discussion of that condition, and to advocating for other NFL players who’ve been damaged at their work.
Some of that advocacy will make NFL fans uncomfortable. Carson writes that he learned early that “most coaches don’t give a shit about players unless they are stars. We are pieces of the machine to make it run. When one part becomes defective or damaged, it is replaced with another, newer part, but the machine must keep running.”
Regarding his own career, Carson sometimes seems ambivalent. Certainly he is proud of how well he and the rest of the Giants were able to work together to create respected and successful teams. He still remembers how good it felt when an opposing player would catch up with Carson as he left the field after a game, just to congratulate him on an especially hard hit. O.J. Simpson was one such player. But toward the end of his book, Carson leaves no doubt about his current attitude toward the game that brought him money and fame. He points out that he was playing the same game that destroyed Otis Taylor, John Mackey, Mike Webster, and the many other former players who’ve died as a result of Alzheimers, dementia, depression, or other neurological problems associated with multiple head injuries. “To know that I might be heading in the same direction as they’ve gone,” Carson writes, “it would be insane, idiotic, and asinine for me to say ‘I’d do it all over again.’”