he wishes he never played football. Those are strong words from someone who excelled at every level of the sport.
Barney still is in relatively good health for his age (66), but says that if he had been presented with a different choice he never would've played football.
"I call it blessed," Barney said. "It's that type of game. It's a lethal game. Again, as I tell people, 'Do you miss the game, Lem?' And sincerely, I don't miss the game."
"If I look at the game now and I look back on it retrospectively, if I had another choice I'd never played the game, at all, in my life," he said. "Never. Never. From all-city, all-state, all-conference, all-American, seven times All-Pro, I'm in eight Hall of Fames, it wouldn't be. It would be golf or tennis. I'm serious. Very serious."
His reasoning behind that. Concussions. Back when he played the league or doctors didn't diagnose concussions like they do now. Barney never knew how many he had until he went to visit a doctor when his playing days were over.
"(He) told me that he saw where I had at least seven or eight concussions," Barney said. "One (spot) was as large as a silver dollar, and he said, 'You were out for a long time.' And there was about 30 minutes that I was out -- down at Tiger Stadium playing against the Bengals. It was just amazing.
"And then the other ones that he saw -- I can remember them. The ones I remember fondly was big Rufus Mayes from Ohio State, 6-9, 290, and he put his right knee right in the right temple when I came up to cut him down on a sweep. Next thing I know, it's like la-la land. Was out for a long time.
If you were knocked around back then, you cleared the cobwebs and went back to playing.
"I related concussions to boxers," he said. "I didn't put one and two together. You get KO'd on the football (field) like getting KO'd in the damn ring, it's a concussion. I didn't put that together because, again, no doctors from middle school through high school through college through the league called them concussions. They all called them dingers and stingers."
He does have some advice for current Lions running back Jahvid Best.
"If he wants to play again, God bless him, but if he can come back and still be comprehensible and still be able to understand things and still live a real good life," Barney said. "I would tell him, if he's going to play, they've got to get some kind of special helmet for him because it's not going to take much longer if he keeps getting those dinger, stinger and bell-ringers as the boxers used to call them, or even the concussions, that he's going to be around here.
"I would tell him to maybe look at doing something else rather than coming back again after having those back-to-(back) concussions. It's a dangerous game. Like I said, I don't have anything against it, I just don't have anything for it now."
For fans that thought Barry Sanders quit on the Lions now you can see why. The man wanted to walk away with his health.