Published January 14, 2015
Lofa Tatupu has had multiple concussions. He's one of the first three active NFL players who have agreed to donate their brains for research after death.
He's also been to three Pro Bowls in four pro seasons. Last year, he signed a $42 million contract extension with the Seattle Seahawks, with $18 million guaranteed.
That leaves his family set for life.
So news that retired professional football players may have a higher rate than normal of Alzheimer's disease or other memory problems doesn't faze him. And, no, the 26-year-old star doesn't think about issues such as dementia now, in the prime of his career.
"Nah. I can't control that," Tatupu said after reports of a study done for the NFL by researchers at the University of Michigan.
It said about 1,000 ex-players aged 30 to 49 reported a rate of memory-related disease 19 times the rate for the same age group in the general population.
"What, you're going to tell me not to stick my head in there to make the tackle? I mean, that's the nature of this game, man," Tatupu said. "We're compensated well to (stick our heads in there). I know what football has done for me. It will take care of my family and the ones I love.
"It's a small price to pay."
Seahawks defensive end Patrick Kerney is 32 years old. He is engaged to be married. He said his body reminds him daily that he's in his 11th NFL season — and he's resigned to the fact that his head must be getting damaged to some degree, too.
"Doesn't surprise me at all," Kerney said when asked about the study. "We get in 20 car wrecks a year. It's a violent sport. Everything has it's risks and rewards. When you sign that contract, you put yourself in harm's way.
"It's sad. It's awful when it does happen to guys. You keep your fingers crossed it doesn't happen to you."
Kerney, who two years ago signed a contract with $19.5 million guaranteed, said he's only recently realized his career is likely affecting his mind.
"Probably when you are younger you don't think of it as much. You are still just playing a game, you are fresh," he said. "But as your career wears on and you start to feel some miles on other stuff, you have to start thinking of that fact there is probably some mileage being put on your noodle, as well.
"I mean, you think about, but at the same time you try to play smart. You try to keep your head up. You try to keep your neck strong — I've been told that helps prevent concussions. Wear a mouthpiece, I've always done that. Take as many preventive measures as I can to lower those odds."
For Tatupu, the odds don't matter — ultimately.
The rugged linebacker smiled, put his hand on the shoulder of a locker room visitor and said, "Hey, you're going to die of something, too."