Bucs Confronting, Considering CTE

August 11th, 2017

Ira Kaufman is the most beloved, revered and esteemed Buccaneers columnist in town. He has hung his hat at JoeBucsFan.com world headquarters since July 2016. Tampa Bay’s only Pro Football Hall of Fame voter, Ira busts out columns here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and his award winning podcasts fire Tuesdays and Thursdays.


Clinton McDonald will line up in the trenches tonight and prepare for a slugfest.

Even in the preseason, defensive linemen and their counterparts engage in a continual series of collisions that leaves both sides bruised and battered.

And even though Tampa Bay’s veteran defensive tackle won’t play the entire game against the Bengals, he’s bound to wake up sore Saturday morning.

While McDonald practiced earlier this week at One Buc Place, former Buccaneers were casing the joint on Alumni Day. James Wilder, Mark Cotney, Dwight Smith and Mark Robinson were having a blast, checking out the current team.

They all have stories to tell about the price they paid for a career in the NFL. They all know about a different three-letter word — CTE — that entered their vocabulary in ominous fashion in recent years.

Robinson, a former safety who now serves as an analyst on USF radio broadcasts, says he’s doing all right, 17 years after his last snap. He turns 55 next month, and Robinson’s memory isn’t as sharp these days. Still, he’ll never forget the day he was awarded a game ball while playing for the Chiefs. While all of his teammates were congratulating him in the locker room, Robinson had no clue what all the commotion was about.

He couldn’t remember what he had done in the game.

New Dialogue

Clinton McDonald

Player safety is a driving force in the NFL, but those Buc alumni toiled in a different era. Nobody talked about suffering permanent brain damage when Cotney was leveling receivers over the middle with the crown of his helmet.

McDonald, 30, says today’s players make a choice, conscious of the risks they address when those shoulder pads go on.

“Physically, I’m doing well,” says McDonald, “but I know a lot of guys coming down with CTE and memory loss. You know what you’re getting yourself into when you start playing pro football. You know the dangers, but at the same time, this is an opportunity that not everyone gets in America.”

McDonald doesn’t talk about the money and the fame that comes with the NFL logo. He dwells on the elevated status that allows players to change young lives.

“We’re blessed to be able to do this,” he says. “We go into this job with eyes wide open. The chance to go out there and have a platform to do great things in life is what you’ve got to take advantage of.”

Former Bucs tight end Jimmie Giles, a member of the Ring of Honor at Raymond James Stadium, once told me he wouldn’t do it all over again if he could turn back time.

As much as he enjoyed the competition and the camaraderie, Giles said the game takes too much out of you.

Nobody’s Fool

Some NFL players are retiring early, well before their skills erode. It’s a big problem for the league and a big problem for youth football, where numbers are dwindling.

McDonald understands the concerns, but he’s not thinking too far down the road. Right now, he’s thinking about being the best player he can be for the 2017 Bucs.

“Do I worry about what will happen to me 20 years from now?” he asks. “Instead, I would worry if I hadn’t taken advantage of an opportunity from 20 years back. I know this game takes a toll, but at the same time, you are able to put yourself in a position at a young age where you can set yourself up for a long, healthy future.”

McDonald is nobody’s fool. He has played 83 NFL games, surviving on guts and guile.

Would he do it again? In a heartbeat, and so would Mark Robinson, who estimates he has suffered dozens of concussions from his days at Penn State to his final few years as a Buc.

The game is safer now, and that’s a good thing, but it’s not safe. Remember that tonight when Clinton McDonald gets down in a 3-point stance and stares at the man assigned to knock him into next week.

11 Responses to “Bucs Confronting, Considering CTE”

  1. Pickgrin Says:

    Nice piece Ira.

    Its a rough game. Modern day gladiators. That’s why its so popular.

    I always liked Mark Robinson. He was a good player on a perpetually bad defense.

    Very surprised Mark didn’t have a more successful broadcasting career. Thought he came across as very natural and comfortable in front of the camera and always contributed intelligent and knowledgeable commentary.

  2. The Buc Realist Says:

    I am amazed at how, just football gets all the attention and all the Blame on CTE. Watch the x-games and do you think that their brains are not bouncing around in their heads????? I know of some heavy-metal musicians that have CTE because they “hand banged” every night on stage!!!!!!! We have all done some sports for Fun and for Free where brains were shook!!!!!!!

    The awareness needs to be more on anything that shakes the grey-matter in our skulls!!!!!!! and how to lessen impacts to minimizing the bouncing of our brains!!!!!!!

    GO Bucs


  3. orlbucfan Says:

    Future potential football players have the info at their fingertips to make an informed/educated decision regarding the hazards of NFL football. Guys like Cotney, Giles and Robinson did not. I personally saw all three great players in action, but I can understand Giles’ comment regarding not playing if he had known all the risks. Good article. Thanks Ira and Joes. 🙂

  4. teacherman777 Says:

    Everybody should be investing in Doug Baldwins new Helmet company!


    And we need to legalize herb as a post-game anti-inflammatory/painkiller / post-concussive medicine.

    I deal with FACTS.

    And herb has been proven without a doubt to be great at treating concussions.

    Doubt me?


  5. teacherman777 Says:


    Why you moderating me bro?

    I have been with you for YEARS!

    I am a peacemaker. And a true fan!
    LINKS are moderated. –Joe

  6. Lord Cornelius Says:

    Lol good points realist. This is why I don’t typically head bang on stage.

    In general it’ll be interesting to see the effect of modern football related to CTE vs old school football.

  7. stpetebucsfan Says:


    Not to nitpick but football is not the only sport getting attention…it’s just the most popular sport in the land and gets most of the pub.

    But CTE is now huge in the NHL as well and players and the league are just as concerned as the NFL because as you suggest it doesn’t matter how you get your bell rung…it’s getting it rung…especially repeatedly.

    Soccer is another sport. Many youth leagues now forbid headers because of concussions. Apparently if you learn how to execute a header properly there is less chance but still there are times when two players go for a header at the same time and knock noggins.

    I talked to my son this week and he was shocked that my 8 year old grandson has been named running back on his football team. Now my son is conflicted.
    Let him carry the ball and take all the hits…or not? My granddaughter of 10 is a star on her basketball and soccer teams…she loves soccer.

  8. Buccaneer Bonzai Says:

    Newsflash…players ALWAYS new there were risks of head injuries in Florida. There just wasn’t a name for it years ago. But anyone with a lick of common sense knew slamming head first into people would result in some sort of damage.

    And if they didn’t, the first recorded concussion should have given them a clue.

    That is why I don’t feel these football players should get any sort of benefit after they retire for medical reasons…not from the NFL anyway.

    Each and every player made the choice to choose football over their own safety. THEY made that choice.

    Did they have good reasons? In some cases, sure. But that’s still on them, not the NFL.

  9. Buccaneer Bonzai Says:

    The Buc Realist Says
    “I am amazed at how, just football gets all the attention and all the Blame on CTE.”


    Boxing. Cage Fighting…all sorts of sports cause it. But only the NFL is getting sued.

  10. unbelievable Says:

    teacherman the preacherman! preach brotha!

    BTW, I’ve been around here for at least 6 or 7 years, and still get moderated all the time! It is what it is…

  11. teacherman777 Says:


    okay! sorry! I have never posted links before.

    Love your site Big Dog.