Out of the darkness and into the light, Sam Shields valiantly returns to the Super Bowl

-- As someone who once not too long ago did everything possible to avoid any form of light, Sam Shields will be under the brightest lights of them all this weekend.

Again.

No longer locked away in the darkness of his home, waging war with the disastrous implications of a seven-year playing career that saw four reported concussions, the former Green Bay Packers cornerback returned to football in 2018 with a shot at potential career rejuvenation with the Los Angeles Rams.

After he suffered his last concussion in the 2016 season opener and proceeded to sit out the rest of the year as well as 2017, there were lingering doubts and legitimate concern for whether or not Shields would ever again be able to suit up and play the game he loved.

He played over 33 percent of defensive snaps for the Rams in 2018 and played in all 18 games. Now he's playing in his second Super Bowl.

"Scary and dark moments, man," Shields told Dave Schroeder of WBAY.com this weekend. "The headaches were not fading away. Things like that. I just had to cope with it."

Coping was all Shields could do while seeking the proper attention at UCLA and getting himself back to full health. It seemed like playing football, rightfully, was an afterthought amidst such bleak circumstances.

The Packers signed Shields as an undrafted free agent in 2010. At the time, as a wide receiver out of Miami before making the transition to cornerback and beginning his work with his position coach, Joe Whitt Jr., a presumed guiding role in Shields' early development and prolonged success during his stint in Green Bay.

Shields was vital during the Packers' Super Bowl run in his rookie season. He had two interceptions -- both in the NFC Championship against the Chicago Bears -- and solidified himself as one of the league's quickest, most potent perimeter cornerbacks over the coming years.

The Packers parted ways with Shields after the 2016 season. While he still had one year remaining on his contract, he hadn't cleared the concussion protocol by January. It was a grim, but telling sign of just how dire his situation was and the kind of attention it needed.

Before returning to the field, Shields made sure to check all of the boxes to ensure he was in the clear to resume his career. He did so just at the right time.

"It's hard to get to this situation," Shields said. "But like I said, just going through the process that I went to, I had to take it one day at a time.

"This league is about opportunity and taking advantage of them. And that has always been my thing."

Shields made one of the biggest plays of the game for the Rams in the NFC Championship two weeks ago. On a fake, punter Johnny Hekker threw a pass to Shields and he made the reception to give the Rams their first first down of the game to that point -- in the second quarter.

The Rams aren't taking much of a risk on Shields, who signed a one-year deal worth just north of a million dollars in the spring. It's Shields who will be taking the biggest risk, but it's a calculated one. The Florida native and ex-track star -- evidenced by his blazing speed -- wouldn't sit idly by while he continues to age.

On the wrong side of 30 at the time of inking that contract, Shields showcased his ability to still maintain his body in peak athletic condition and that he could keep up with whoever the opposing team lines up across from him. At this point, it's probably more about playing safe than playing to be the best at his position.

"Football is always in me," Shields told ESPN's Alden Gonzalez in a story last March, shortly after he landed with the Rams. "It's just like riding a bike. My whole big thing was just getting over the headache part, the head part. I've had the tests, I went over that, and I'm back normal. It hasn't left. Trust me."

__________________________

Zachary Jacobson is a staff writer/reporter for Cheesehead TV. He's the voice of The Leap on iTunes and can be heard on The Scoop KLGR 1490 AM every Saturday morning. He's also a contributor on the Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter via @ZachAJacobson or contacted through email at [email protected].

4 points

Comments (35)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
holmesmd's picture

February 01, 2019 at 08:19 am

Another GB screw up. Why wasn’t he retained until the nature of his brain health could be accurately assessed? The guy was the best pure boundary CB since Tramon & Al Harris in their prime! Now low & behold, the guy is back to form and in the SB. GB has made some curious personnel decisions over the years to say the least. SMH

-15 points
2
17
cuervo's picture

February 01, 2019 at 08:56 am

That's an easy answer....because if the Packers wouldn;t have cut him, they would have had to pay his salary, which I think was in the 8-10 million/yr range.

So, your idea as the GM would be to pay a player millions per year all the while knowing there was zero chance of him being able to play.

GB didn't screw up, they did the correct thing.

13 points
15
2
Big_Mel_75's picture

February 01, 2019 at 08:58 am

Slow down. He isn't a starter out there... Played in 10 games. 22 Tackles 1 INT with 4 pass defended. Hardly probowl numbers. It is awesome that he is playing football but to think the Packers made a mistake by not keeping is craziness.

7 points
8
1
TheVOR's picture

February 01, 2019 at 09:08 am

So I'll just say this in disagreeing with you. Sam Shields is "Everything That's Wrong" with the NFL and in them dealing with the concussion issue. In fact I'd go as far as to say, that within the next CBA, the NFL will almost certainly be forced to put forth a "Play At Your Own Risk" agreement, that the NFL and the players understand the concussion risks, as long as to the long term affects of playing NFL football, and the NFL will no longer be held liable or responsible for brain injuries incurred while playing NFL football.

And finally, Sam Shields was a great player in GB, everyone knew that including the Green Bay Packers. But to have put him back out on the field would have been irresponsible IMO. Not only do I think Green Bay did the right thing, but I think the NFL missed the opportunity to make a point with Football players actually knowing and understanding the risks, and playing anyway. Sam Shields is one more huge head shot from wearing a drool cup in his elder years.

I think it's irresponsible of the NFL to have allowed him back on the field. That's just my opinion. I actually don't agree with a lot of decisions made by the Packers organization, but they were spot on in not putting him back on the field in a Packers Uniform. Just my Opinion.

11 points
11
0
The TKstinator's picture

February 01, 2019 at 10:45 am

Scary stuff for sure.

2 points
3
1
Thegreatreynoldo's picture

February 02, 2019 at 12:23 pm

I don't agree. I'd be fine with the NFL and/or individual teams not allowing Shields back on the field if it were done to protect the NFL from lawsuits.

Shields is a 31-year-old man. He was medically cleared. The decision is and should have been his alone. I don't think he made the correct choice, but I would not impose my view on him. In response to Rebecca below, someone would have to prove convincingly that due to prior brain trauma Shields is incapable of reaching a rational conclusion. Depriving a person of the right to make his or her own choices is a serious thing.

1 points
1
0
carlos's picture

February 01, 2019 at 08:20 am

Always loved Shields. Packers did the right thing, but once again an ex-Packer having success elsewhere. Hope the best for him.

2 points
2
0
carlos's picture

February 01, 2019 at 08:21 am

I didn’t see your post Holm. Same thoughts for the most part though.

-3 points
0
3
carlos's picture

February 01, 2019 at 01:49 pm

Gee thanks guys. I’m not liked here. Oh well, such is life.

0 points
0
0
Rebecca's picture

February 02, 2019 at 07:28 am

Carlos, I like you. I don’t judge yours or anyone else’s opinions, just actions.

0 points
1
1
carlos's picture

February 02, 2019 at 08:19 am

Thanks Rebeca. Nice of you.

0 points
0
0
Handsback's picture

February 01, 2019 at 08:23 am

I always liked "The Shield" and thought he was the glue that held the Packer's defense together. I have no idea how he has played this year, but I hope he has a great game on Sunday since his skill set is perfect against NE's receivers.

2 points
2
0
dobber's picture

February 01, 2019 at 09:32 am

He was as close to a shutdown corner as the Packers had for awhile, and he allowed the defense to cover one side without needing to shade safety help. When he went away, and the quality of the remaining CBs was exposed, it was a nasty slide.

2 points
2.5
0.5
Minniman's picture

February 01, 2019 at 01:04 pm

Handsback, having kept a casual eye on how Sam Shields has gone this year I would say that a comparison to Tramon's season would not be wrong - he was used sparingly and was satisfactory. top caliber tall WR's gave him some trouble, but he held his own and wasn't an abject liability.

3 points
3
0
Rossonero's picture

February 01, 2019 at 09:17 am

I'm happy for him after what he's been through.

The Packers are usually very good about viewing their team members not only as players, but as people who have a life beyond football.

That said, his release is along the same lines as guys like Jermichael Finley, Jonathan Franklin, Nick Collins and Johnny Jolly who had serious injuries and it was in their best interests to NOT play anymore.

That same argument can be made for Shields, but in his case, a team actually took a chance on him while the others I listed above never signed with anyone else.

Shields is taking a risk no doubt, but I hope for his sake he wins the Super Bowl and is then content to hang up his cleats before suffering another concussion.

6 points
6
0
carlos's picture

February 01, 2019 at 01:58 pm

That’s the thing I’ve always admired about the Packer’s organization: they took care of players. Kind of protected them from theirs selves. Some players wouldn’t stop for anything and bring future issues into their lives. That’s where the team stepped in despite the loss of a quality player and said no. I feel Shields was a similar situation. Nice to see him get another ring after what he’s been through. Hard to go against the Patriots, but we’ll soon find out.

4 points
4
0
Rossonero's picture

February 01, 2019 at 03:28 pm

Absolutely. I've always been proud of the Packers organization in that regard.

That's what leadership is all about -- seeing your employee as more than just their role at work -- but them as a whole person with a life outside of work.

I'll be rooting for Sam and the Rams come Sunday.

2 points
2
0
Houndog's picture

February 02, 2019 at 05:22 pm

Rossonero says:
"That said, his release is along the same lines as guys like Jermichael Finley, Jonathan Franklin, Nick Collins and Johnny Jolly who had serious injuries and it was in their best interests to NOT play anymore".

Let's not forget Sterling Sharpe!
Ron Wolf had to make the same decision with one of the best receivers to ever play the game, in his prime, and likely (arguably) a sure HOF'er.

1 points
1
0
TXCHEESE's picture

February 01, 2019 at 10:05 am

Shields was definitely a stud in his day, and one of the real success stories in free agency, but GB did the right thing in releasing him.
For those that are poo pooing the NFL over this, take a step back. Shields didn't go into this with blind faith. He actually had a great amount a testing at UCLA to make sure he was healthy enough for another run. Are there risks? Sure, there are risks with everything. I take a risk mountain biking and snow skiing with a ceramic hip replacement, but with some common sense, I still get to enjoy those things.
Here's hoping Shields has a big day on Sunday and collects another ring.

0 points
1
1
Thegreatreynoldo's picture

February 01, 2019 at 10:44 am

Hear, Hear! [I'll add a Here, Here! for those who find homophones challenging.]

-1 points
1
2
The TKstinator's picture

February 01, 2019 at 05:20 pm

Much appreciated here!
(Or ‘hear’, if you prefer.)

1 points
1
0
carlos's picture

February 01, 2019 at 02:03 pm

I’ve been cut up in mouth and neck area 3 times-thanks cancer. Live with pain every day. Cold weather doesn’t help. Don’t lay on a couch and say, Why me?” Keep after it and keep moving. Life is hard, but still a blessing. Love guys like Shields who doesn’t quit. Keep fighting.

7 points
7
0
carlos's picture

February 01, 2019 at 02:05 pm

Keep after it TXCheese. No quit.

1 points
1
0
carlos's picture

February 01, 2019 at 02:06 pm

Oh- didn’t smoke or chew. Luck of the draw the doctor said.

2 points
2
0
Rossonero's picture

February 01, 2019 at 03:29 pm

That is horrible luck, sorry to hear that. Glad you are doing better. Keep charging Carlos!

3 points
3
0
carlos's picture

February 01, 2019 at 05:10 pm

Thanks Ross. It means a lot. I’m tougher than cancer. Blessed to still be here

6 points
6
0
NickPerry's picture

February 02, 2019 at 05:44 am

And here I get upset when the Packers lose, don't sign who I THINK are the right coaches or players in free agency...Keep fighting and much respect Carlos.

2 points
2
0
carlos's picture

February 02, 2019 at 08:22 am

Thanks Nick. A great nucleus of people around here.

2 points
2
0
jeremyjjbrown's picture

February 01, 2019 at 10:29 am

Good luck Sam! Make this Super Bowl a good one.

2 points
2
0
Skip greenBayless's picture

February 01, 2019 at 11:26 am

One of my all time favorite players. I'll never ever forget that spectacular 2 int. game in the NFC Championship game against the Bears. One right before the half and the other to seal the game and head to the super bowl. I hope you get another ring. You deserve it for all the pain you went thru the past couple years.

Dash

2 points
3
1
carlos's picture

February 01, 2019 at 02:09 pm

You got a good memory Dash. Mine is fading a bit. Lol

0 points
0
0
Qoojo's picture

February 01, 2019 at 01:01 pm

Except he is not out of the darkness. His concussion history will catch up with him eventually. At this point, he is just risking more severe CTE as he gets older. I support the packers having the integrity to not be a part of that.

1 points
2
1
carlos's picture

February 01, 2019 at 02:58 pm

A good friend played in the NHL. Toughest guy I know. Been to Boston for research and goes to Jacksonville Florida every couple months all due to concussions. Helped him immensely. Jockey there and several pro football ball players. He said they are all great guys- just been through tough times.

1 points
1
0
Skip greenBayless's picture

February 01, 2019 at 05:25 pm

Qoojo, I read some where a month or so ago that Sam Shields ran into Hollywood actor Morgan Freeman while out in CA. He told Sam that he can do one of two things. He said Sam, you can "get busy living or get busy dying". Sam chose to live and here we are. He's at the super bowl.

Dash

1 points
3
2
jannes bjornson's picture

February 01, 2019 at 02:09 pm

Sam is the man. Just cutting edge diagnosis and methods of therapeutic recovery coming from UCLA neuroscience department. Wishing Sam well and hoping he comes up with game changing play for a Rams victory.

1 points
1
0