FOXBORO, Mass. — After trying to give it a go on the practice field last week, Patriots defensive lineman Mike Wright determined it was time to shut it down this season due to the post-concussion symptoms that are still haunting his everyday life.
He still gets motion sick when he watches TV, surfs the Internet or reads a book or magazine. And despite his immense frustration, Wright knew it was the appropriate step to take in his recovery. The Patriots placed him on injured reserve Thursday.
"I was planning on coming back in the next few weeks," Wright said Friday. "I felt like I was going to be ready, and based off my concussion history, and the coaches, and doctors and trainers looking out for me, and my best interest and my health, it was just the right decision to do what we did. I did not want to go on IR. That's the last thing I wanted to do. I was really looking forward to being part of the team this year. There's a lot of great players in there that I wanted to continue to play with, but that's not in the cards."
Wright's season ended in 2010 due to a concussion in Week 11, and he said it took 3 1/2 months for those symptoms to subside. He suffered an unrelated injury during training camp but returned in time to play one preseason game and the regular-season opener against the Dolphins.
However, that's when Wright took the same hit to the side of the head that closed the books on his 2010 season. He said he immediately knew it was a concussion, though he didn't believe it was as severe as the one he suffered last year against the Colts.
Wright said the symptoms aren't as bad as they were last year, and he expects them to go away quicker. However, he knew he couldn't afford to run the risk of taking another hit to the head so soon after this string of concussions.
"It wasn't getting better," Wright said. "It's probably just right to give it the amount of time it needs to fully heal as opposed to rushing back and making a mistake and taking a blow that I don't need to take."
He plans to stay with the team this season, and he's able to work out and get his heart rate up, which he says is important. Yet, when he's home, he said it's frustrating that he can't do many things to pass the time, and that's when his mind starts to wander. That was one of his greatest hurdles last year, but he's gotten better at dealing with the anxiety of being out of football this time around.
"It's not comfortable. It's frustrating," Wright said. "You're just basically trying to relax your brain most of the day to let it heal. At the same time, when you're not able to do those things, your mind wanders. It just goes all over the place."
Wright said he's hoping younger kids open their eyes to the dangers of concussions and even recalled his own mindset when he was in college at Cincinnati. The mentality, he said, was that some dizziness or seeing stars was no big deal because players just wanted to get back on the field. He said that's a mindset that has to change, and he hopes to send a message to younger athletes everywhere.
"Pushing through getting hit on the field and being dizzy is not normal," Wright said. "Your brain is extremely important. You have no idea what your brain has to process to even stand up out of a chair. I think it's great what the NFL is doing now to educate everyone, but I think kids and high school players can learn a lot and they need to keep their ears open. They need to look out for other guys on the field because football is a game of toughness, and some guys feel like minor pain or minor dizziness is OK. But it's not. When it comes to your brain, it's very, very serious, and it's nothing to play with."
Wright, 29, has one year remaining on his contract, but he won't make a decision on next season for a few months. He's just trying to get healthy, and he'll take it from there.
"Right now, I'm just trying to get better," Wright said. "I think I'll make that decision with the doctors and the coaches after the season. Right now, my focus is just getting everything better and going back to normal."