It's a story that's all too common these days. When a professional athlete ends his career, one would think that the physical pain would go away and they would be able to live the rest of their lives in relative comfort. Unfortunately, things rarely work out that way and the pain never really goes away.
Buffalo Bills legend Bruce Smith, who will see his number retired by the team next season, spoke to Matthew Fairburn at Jim Kelly's annual charity golf tournament on Monday about his physical state these days, more than 12 years after his final NFL game.
"I look good, but I'm in pain," said the Hall of Famer who says he is able to exerciser almost daily. "There's not a day that goes by that I'm not in pain. Multiple joints and things that I experience on a daily basis. It can be very frustrating sometimes and painful, but I'm very blessed. God has been good."
Concussions have been at the forefront of the conversation on retired players dealing with football injuries, and Smith is no different. He blames frequent forgetfulness on blows to the head while playing football. If he suffers the severe depression that is a hallmark of CTE, he hasn't spoken about it publicly.
Still, as Bills fans remember from the story of Darryl Talley's post-football career, a long NFL career is going to take a strong toll on just about everybody who plays the game. The extent to which that manifests itself is always going to depend on various circumstances, but very few are lucky enough to make it out of the game unscathed.
Even more, Smith still seems grateful for the life he's had and the career and legacy he's built so far. The debate about whether humans should even play football is one that will go on for as long as the game is played, but even in hindsight many players wouldn't trade their experiences for anything. In his words, it seems that Smith is a part of that group.