Seahawks' Curry among 1st to be treated in new NFL era of dealing with head injuries

Still in his blue practice pants, leg pads and cleats, Aaron Curry, the new husband and even newer father reached to his wife. Then he picked up their young son Maxwell.

The Seahawks' $34 million linebacker playfully hugged, kissed and lifted the smiling boy, born in October.

The scene showed off the two biggest reasons Curry was so scared on July 31.

Curry had listened all offseason as talk from Congress to kids' leagues raised the nation's awareness of football head injuries.

He learned about players in their 20s who sustained repeated head injuries then had memory loss or difficulty walking decades later. On the first day of Seattle's training camp, he strode past the concussion poster the league now requires all teams to display in locker room areas.

Minutes later, he was flying around in a scrimmage as if he was a possessed man, to show his renewed level of passion following a subpar rookie season. On a pass rush, he rammed his helmet into the side of running back Justin Forsett's.

Just like that, Curry had a concussion.

"The day was very scary for me," the 24-year-old Curry, last year's fourth overall pick, said Wednesday. "All that (research) was going through my head. It was like the world was coming to an end.

"I tried hiding it from my wife and my mom. My wife wasn't coming to practice yet, I hadn't talked to my mom, and we are staying in the (camp) hotel, so I didn't have to go home. I was talking to everyone like I was practicing, but then it was released in the media.

"They were both at my throat. ... The only reason I didn't tell them is because I know how they like to worry, and I like to avoid that."

Wednesday's practice was Curry's first full one since the concussion. Coach Pete Carroll kept saying Curry should be back within days, but he missed nine of them.

In Seattle's Super Bowl season of 2005, Shaun Alexander was knocked out of a division round playoff game with a concussion. The running back started the NFC championship game the following weekend.

"The NFL has done so much excellent research on concussions, but you don't really pay it no mind until you get one," Curry said. "You can't disregard it, you have to accept the research they do, and the new rules. You have to accept how serious it is.

"When it comes to your brain, it's past X's and O's, it's past football. It's about later in life. ... I want to be able to have a full conversation with my kid. That was the big thing that had me scared."

The NFL recently fired the two co-leaders of its concussion committee since 2007 and replaced them with Drs. Richard Ellenbogen and Hunt Batjer, the new co-chairmen of the NFL's head, neck and spine medical committee.

In a hearing before Congress in May, Ellenbogen outlined a six-point approach by the NFL to deal with head trauma. Under the program, the league will build a database that will log every concussion for each player; study the effects of concussions on retired players; improve equipment, notably helmets; advocate for athletes in all sports; advance the understanding of concussions; and revise and continually improve the return to play criteria for athletes.

Curry laughed when told he is essentially the NFL's first test case.

"Yeah, I guess I am," he said.

The outside linebacker said it was "amazing" how quickly Seahawks trainer Sam Ramsden rushed to him after his hit on Forsett. He said Ramsden saw something not quite right with the way Curry was returning to the huddle.

"He tricked me," Curry said. "He said he had to fix something with my facemask — then he hid my helmet."

The league has implemented new return-to-play guidelines for players who sustain head injuries in a practice or game. Teams must now consult with an independent neurologist whenever a player sustains a head injury.

Curry also saw Dr. Stan Herring, a Seahawks team physician who is considered an expert on brain trauma. Herring, who was on the sideline Wednesday as Curry returned to team scrimmaging, is the co-medical director of the Seattle Sports Concussion Program. He recently led an effort to get a new concussion law passed in Washington state that sets conditions for how head injuries are to be dealt with in youth sports.

For a week Curry was tested on recognizing colors and shapes, on short-term memory and focus, on completing sentences and doing word association. He returned to practice this week only after those results matched the baseline results Seattle's doctors got from him — and all other 2009 Seahawks — last summer.

Curry says he never thought he'd had a concussion while starring at E.E. Smith High School in Fayetteville, N.C., or at Wake Forest.

Now, he knows better.

"People say they get so-called 'dinged,'" Curry said. "No, you are concussed.

"I'm just glad I got it taken care of. It's out of my mind now. I'm clear."

Curry is still getting used to his new helmet with different shell and padding that is touted to reduce the risk of concussions. He may not play in Saturday's preseason opener against Tennessee.

Until he returns to game action, has Curry learned through this scare to dial back in practice at least?

He shakes his head from side to side and pouts his lips.

"I'm coached by a coach who won't let (that)," Curry said of new linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr. "We don't know what it means to dial it back or calm down. Only thing we know how to do is to not take out a teammate, but everything we do is going to be full speed and at a high intensity and high tempo.

"We are going to do anything with bad intent."