Adams, a rookie, made the comment at a fan forum intended to address player safety while seated next to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
The league’s response to CTE and brain injuries have been a problem for the NFL for years, and while many players have acknowledged that their long-term brain health and mental health is a concern, Adams’ comment seemed to dismiss those entirely.
On Tuesday, the 21-year-old clarified his words, saying they were meant to convey his passion for the game, not diminish the seriousness of CTE and brain trauma.
“When you see something that’s blowing up, that’s on ‘First Take’ and ESPN, I think it should be addressed,” Adams said, via Newsday. “My words were simply that I’m very passionate about what I do. I said at the beginning [of the fan forum] that I’m all about making the game safer. I understand the CTE symptoms and whatnot and what families are affected by it. But it’s simply about passion.”
Noting that football is his job now, Adams added, “This is where I’m most at peace.”
Adams spoke with Jets coach Todd Bowles, and Bowles said he understood Adams’ passion, but that clearing up his words was necessary. Adams also spoke to his father, George, a former NFL running back who spent five seasons with the New York Giants, but would not share what the two discussed.
“I’m all about making the game safer,” Adams said, admitting he’s “not a big fan of it” as a hard-hitting defensive player.
In light of last week’s revelation that the brains of 110 of 111 deceased former NFL players had evidence of CTE, current and former players took to social media to condemn Adams’ words.
Green Bay Packers tight end Martellus Bennett tweeted, “I hope all these young cats that are willing to die for the game of football find a higher purpose in life. Look football is great but I ain’t dying for [it].”
Keana McMahon, the ex-wife of Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman Justin Strzelczyk, who intentionally drove into oncoming traffic in New York, causing a fiery crash that killed him, was shocked to hear what Adams said.
“This guy doesn’t know what’s coming down the pipeline. He has no idea what dealing with someone who has CTE is like,” McMahon said. “I bet my kids would want their father here. I know in my heart of hearts Justin would have wanted to see his daughter get married someday or see his son graduate from college, not dying on a football field.”