"Since high school, I've been writing 'Suicide Mission' on my chest. I don't know how I'm going to come out. I don't know. I'm going to lay my body on the line - right on my chest. Right over my tatts. In black Sharpie."
LaRon Landry knows a lot about concussions. After all, he's dished out enough of them.
So many would consider it poetic justice that the player known to his fans as "Dirty 30", a play on his jersey number mixed with his history of cheap shots and even cheaper talk, suffered a concussion during the Indianapolis Colts' come-from-behind win over the Kansas City Chiefs last Saturday.
Nothing calculated, nothing premeditated - just an inadvertent knee to the helmet that staggered the seventh year strong safety as he made a tackle.
Landry practiced for the Indianapolis Colts on Thursday, one step closer to being cleared to play on Saturday night against the New England Patriots in the divisional round of these 2013 playoffs - a team with which his has a sordid history...
...particularly on a Thanksgiving Day game in 2012, a game known more for The New York Jets' Mark Sanchez' "Butt Fumble" in an embarrassing loss to the Patriots - Safety Steve Gregory had picked up Sanchez' fumble and returned it for a touchdown as part of a five touchdown second quarter blitzkrieg that left the Jets stunned and Fireman Ed turning in his shield.
And with the score 28-0 and the Patriots on their own 44 yard line with a little over three minutes left in the first half, quarterback Tom Brady dropped back to pass, spotted receiver Julien Edelman wide open down the field after shaking Landry - then a Jet - and launched a 56 yard scoring strike to finish out the Patriots scoring for the half and driving a dagger into the Jets' chances of victory.
On the Patriots' first possession of the second half and with a first down at the Jets' 46, Brady pitched the ball to Edelman on a reverse, the demure receiver turning the corner already at full speed - when in came Landry, his helmet-to-helmet shot knocking Edelman out cold, a filthy display of vengeance for Edelman burning Landry just one possession earlier.
Now Landry is a Colt, the result of a four-year, $24 million investment that General Manager Ryan Grigson felt was absolutely necessary to change the culture of the Indianapolis defense:
We’re ecstatic about this signing. We feel LaRon is an absolute game changer and a true impact player. We’re talking about a 220-pound safety that runs 4.3 and plays to that speed. His approach to the game and his style of play are lights out and embody the culture we’re building on the defense and this team in general.” - Grigson
And, yes. That statement says all you need to know about how this Indianapolis defense is constructed - a centerpeice that hasn't played a full season in four years, missing time with injury and suspension, his 2013 season an encapsulation of his career. Landry played just 12 games, logging an impressive tackle total of 95 but with only two passes defended.
For his part, Landry insists that he is not a dirty player, that he plays within the rules that the NFL sets in order to insure player safety.
"I read the critics and all the hate. I feel some way towards it, but certain things you can't disclose to the public about how you really feel about it. But I take it to heart, because I'm really not a dirty player at all. I'm a passionate player and I do anything to win." - Landry
When he's not delivering crushing blows to turn an opponent's brain to oatmeal, he jawing about Head-hunting and taking guys out at the knee - something that has had him at odds with just about every opponent he's ever faced since being the #6 overall selection in the 2007 NFL Draft for the Washington Redskins.
"I could just make a great tackle. But me, I'm full-speed all the time. I only know one way to get it done. That's my style. I don't understand when it comes across that I'm trying to injure guys, trying to blow their knees out and do this or that. Man, that's a legal hit. Don't blame me. I'm playing within the NFL's system." - again, Landry
Seems that we heard that line from a certain Cleveland Browns' safety named T. J. Ward when he ended Patriots' tight end Rob Gronkowski's season a little over a month ago with a "legal hit" to Gronkowski's knee.
Players like Landry - they are football's equivalent of a goon in Hockey. Prized for their aggression, intimidators are typically less gifted at skill areas of the game than their teammates, and tend to bounce around from team to team. - Landry is on his third team in as many years, his abrasive nature leading to a mutually agreed-upon divorce from the Redskins, then scoffed at the New York Jets' offer to keep him after last season.
"Anything that happens on the field. If you need a big play, I love that. I mean, please throw it my way. Please do that. Even if the outcome is bad, I love a challenge, I love competition."
Hear that, Brady? Edelman? Don't get suckered in to Landry's ploy, but by all means go after him when the time is right. Not after his head, but over his head - burn him deep when the opportunity presents itself - and it will, because Landry isn't a football player, he's a goon, a self-professed head-hunter who is perpetually on a "Suicide Mission"...
...but watch out for your knees, and for God's sake don't duck your head - because as long as Landry is healthy and in the game, he's on his Suicide Mission, and he won't think twice about taking you with him.
And for the Colts, apparently that's worth six million dollars a year.