Three days after he was placed on season-ending injured reserve with lingering effects from a concussion, Hunter Hillenmeyer said he feels “totally fine.”
But the Chicago Bears linebacker, an eight-year veteran, is at peace with the organization’s decision to shut him down.
Hillenmeyer suffered a concussion in the Bears’ third preseason game with the Arizona Cardinals on Aug. 28 when he had a helmet-to-helmet collision with a lineman. He’s known to have had one previous concussion in the 2006 season opener at Green Bay, and Hillenmeyer acknowledged he’s had “several,” meaning there have been others.
The academic All-American from Vanderbilt has been out front with the NFLPA when it comes to discussions about concussions. He’s already pledged to donate his brain to research after his playing days are over.
But he can’t say at this point if he will play again.
“I don't know," Hillenmeyer said. "That's kind of a big question. One of the hardest things with concussions is you don't really know. I wouldn't have played in the first game if I didn't think I was better. Even when I got checked out at halftime of that game the doctors say there's no way to know for sure that this is a lingering effect of a concussion. It could be from allergies, there's 100 things that could cause dizziness, it could be from taking too many energy supplements before the game.
"With my history, I've had a few of these so, as hard as it was to stomach after ending up on IR after playing one half of one game I respect their decision to err on the side of caution.”
Hillenmeyer was cleared to return before the season opener last week. He suffered dizziness in the first half of the game and was pulled at halftime.
“I still fought a battle at halftime of that day," he said. "I'm like, 'I know I should tell the doctors but I don't want to come out of the game.' I feel like if I am fighting that battle in my head, then you know there are guys who have a much less secure roster spot and aren't vested veterans who know that they don't have to worry about the financial part of the situation, they might not even know and not care.
"The system is never going to be perfect. Anything they could do like that whether it's adding people to the roster or finding something where it's not an all-or-nothing, IR-and-you're-done for-the-year situation, I think would set up incentives for players to be more candid about their symptoms."
Will he consider retirement?
"One of the reasons I wanted to wait a couple days before I talked to you guys because I wanted to kind of let things like that digest," Hillenmeyer said. "I'm certainly not ready to say that at this point. I know I'm obviously done for the year and that gives me at a minimum eight or nine months before I'm doing football-related activities again and that's certainly enough time to evaluate what I'm going to do down the road.
"I have friends around the league that have been done or while they were still playing it would get to May or whatever when they start running around for OTA's, and they would have symptoms again and I have never had anything like that, and in that respect I feel like I am one of the lucky ones that has had these things managed correctly."
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