Tony Dorsett and countless other retired NFL players – Hall of Famers or otherwise – are in pain every day. They’re hobbling around, they have arthritis, they’re struggling with memory loss. It’s an unkind fate for players who were once the gladiators of their generation.

With all we now know about head trauma and CTE – and with high-profile players such as Calvin Johnson and Marshawn Lynch reportedly retiring early – it’s fair to question the future of football in our society. Will it last? And even if it can, should we let it?

Ted Johnson says yes. Why? Because the people who play football need football more than football needs them.

“We all know how hard it is to play this game,” the retired three-time Super Bowl champion said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “It’s so hard. A lot of us that have played this game have come from struggle. People are worried about the future of the game when we talk about the concussion stuff, (but) there’s always going to be a game of football – always. And the reason why is, if you look at the typical profile of a football player, they don’t come from backgrounds. They come from single-parent homes, they come from struggle, they come from poverty, they come from divorce, they come from neglect, abuse – and that’s why guys are drawn to the game of football. Coaches become pseudo-fathers, teammates become pseudo-brothers, they have responsibility, they’re held accountable, they have structure that they’ve never had before – so naturally, we’re drawn to that game.

“So there’s always going to be kids from that type of background,” Johnson continued, “and their only way out and to actually be something in life is through the game of football. They weren’t maybe pushed in school. Education wasn’t pushed at their home. Neither of my parents went to college. So we hang on to a game that meant so much to us because we’re scared to death of what our lives would look like without it.”

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