Jahvid Best was one of my absolute favorites from 2010. Best was released by the Lions less than 10 days ago. It looks like he's played his last NFL down too. I don't really feel sorry for Best or the Lions though. Best was a known risk. He had two horrible looking head collisions that caused him to miss quite a bit of time. He also played RB.
I do feel bad for Swope. The guy played the game a lot like Harvin does, all out all the time. In particular he was a nasty "cheap shot" specialist as a blocker- he blocked defensive players the way that Junior Seau tackled players. I suspect that's where Swopes' brain injuries came from. I read recently that some people are genetically predisposed towards concussions, but there isn't a way of knowing for sure until the autopsy. We can only speculate, but I'm guessing Swope was probably one of the predisposed ones. The guy dished out hard hits 1980s style, but there was never a major concussion "moment" during his college career.
The truly sad thing is- the damage is already done. Swope isn't walking away from anything. He's still going to have long term issues. It would have been worse had he played a decade in the NFL, but not by much. The way brain damage works, most of it is sustained early on before holding steady. So he kind of got the worst of both worlds.
As fans, it sucks for people like myself and others like Matt Waldman who thought that Swope could have been a very special NFL player. If he had been born sooner, and not during a time where brain health is the NFL's top issue, he would have gotten to play and probably not been much worse off for it.
As an aside, the brain health battle is impossible for the NFL to win. Just by engaging in it they are inviting future problems. I'm guessing the vast majority of NFL players would fail brain scans. It's good to respect the health of players and take a reasoned approach, true. But it will eventually reach a point where the brain damage critics will feel that the NFL is powerless to stop the problem and demand and end to the sport. Famous author and intellectual Malcolm Gladwell is already starting such a campaign to end college football.
At some point, the NFL just needs to shrug it's shoulders and point out that there are numerous professions with far worse health side effects and mortality rates. But the NFL probably wants to use that tactic as a last resort, because they'd like to avoid the lawsuits those other industries have had to deal with.
So in the mean time, they are doing face saving things like preventing players with concussions from playing at all. Swope's career was destroyed because of it, Best's too (most likely). Maybe I am wrong and it is for the best that both are barred from playing, but if the choice was theirs to make- their livelihoods- their lifelong consequences- they'd be playing.