Antwaan Randle El

He's only 36 -- three years younger than Charles Woodson, who just retired -- but Antwaan Randle El is feeling the effects of his NFL career.

And he's clear about one thing: The way he feels now, he wishes he'd never played professional football.

According to a report from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Randle El is suffering from both physical and mental limitations that are affecting his daily life. Some days he struggles to walk down stairs -- a stunning change for a player whose greatest value was his speed and athleticism.

A quarterback in college at Indiana, Randle El switched to wide receiver and return specialist in the NFL, helping the Steelers win the Super Bowl in 2006. Now he's not only out of the league -- he's worried about his future.

"I ask my wife things over and over again, and she's like, 'I just told you that,'" Randle El said. "I'll ask her three times the night before and get up in the morning and forget. Stuff like that.

"I try to chalk it up as I'm busy, I'm doing a lot, but I have to be on my knees praying about it, asking God to allow me to not have these issues and live a long life. I want to see my kids raised up. I want to see my grandkids."

Randle El says he's in a tough place because he loves the game of football -- but he also knows it's getting too dangerous. He cites the increasing speed and strength even at the high school level, which increases the risk of concussions, spinal cord injuries and other trauma.

He has a hard time seeing the value in playing the sport -- and wishes he had chosen a different path.

"If I could go back, I wouldn't [play football]," he said. "I would play baseball. I got drafted by the Cubs in the 14th round [out of high school], but I didn't play baseball because of my parents. They made me go to school. Don't get me wrong, I love the game of football. But right now, I could still be playing baseball."

Randle El is also skeptical that changes will make the game any safer. As he sees it, the sport is inherently violent -- and there's no way to avoid its consequences.

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