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After career-ending injury, ex-Seahawks WR Ricardo Lockette trying to keep current players safe

Ex-Seahawks WR Ricardo Lockette retired after suffering a neck injury on the field in 2015. (AP)

Three years ago, former Seahawks wide receiver Ricardo Lockette saw his playing career come to a halt after suffering a neck injury during a game against the Dallas Cowboys. The injury was so severe that Lockette underwent a five-hour surgery to stabilize the area and was afterward forced into retirement.

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Today, Lockette is using his experience to advance a comprehensive study at Harvard University – the largest of its kind – which aims to make the NFL safer for its players and minimize the long-term health risks associated with professional football.

“I don’t think a person should work hard their whole life to complete a goal and reach the highest potential in their career and once they retire they can’t walk,” Lockette said during an interview with 710 ESPN Seattle’s Bob, Groz and Tom Thursday, “or they can’t walk their daughter down the aisle, or they can’t make it to the Super Bowl because they can’t sit on a plane or bend their knees. Or in my situation, it could’ve been that he’s paralyzed.”

The Super Bowl XLVIII champion is currently a player advisor for The Football Players Health Study at Harvard. The study is working to collect data from current and former players (they currently have over 3,800 submissions) to improve quality of life. Active projects include a brain health study, a health and wellness initiative, and a third study that aims to explore how personal ties affect the health of former players.

“The more people that participate, the better,” Lockette said. “We can get a clearer picture… it has to start with the data. It starts from the current players, the former players.”

Lockette recognizes that his status as a former player allows him to speak up where others can’t – to speak on behalf of current players who are concerned about long-term health but who are in a contract situation or fear that another player could take their job if they’re unable to play.

“You have no idea what guys go through,” Lockette said. “Leaving the game on the plane, you think ‘Oh, Russell Wilson had a great game, or Marshawn (Lynch) had a good game.’ But if you were to get on our plane, you would see ice on knees, ice on necks, ice on ankles, you’d see feet elevated, you’d see IVs, you’d see doctors.”

That doesn’t mean Lockette isn’t still just as passionate about the game.

“You realize after a couple years you’re like, ‘Hey man, we were really killing ourselves.’ So what can we do to prolong it, but not take the excitement out of the game?”

Listen to Lockette’s full interview with Bob, Groz and Tom here. Lockette also talked about whether or not ever considered a return to the field, and his relationship with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

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