SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) -Dan Morgan strapped on his extra-padded helmet, adjusted his special mouthpiece and ran onto the field knowing some people think he's making a horrible decision.
The Carolina Panthers' linebacker is trying to return from at least the fifth concussion of his career, one that forced him to miss the final 15 games last season.
There are disturbing stories of the long-term effects of multiple blows to the head, from memory loss to depression to dementia. But there was Morgan on Saturday morning, running around the practice field in a steady rain.
``Anybody who steps on the field is at risk, but I am more so because I have had more concussions than the average person,'' Morgan said. ``The minute I don't feel good is the minute I wouldn't be playing football.
``At the same time I feel good and I'm excited and I'm ready to go,'' he said.
Morgan isn't completely ready. Despite being cleared to return in early January, Morgan took part in only some drills. He was replaced at middle linebacker by Adam Seward every time there was a chance of contact.
``We take precautions with a lot of guys,'' coach John Fox said. ``We always have and always will.''
Morgan wasn't sure if he'll play in any preseason games, but vows to be ready to play in the season opener Sept. 9 at St. Louis.
But should he?
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell ordered all team doctors and trainers to attend a summit earlier this summer amid reports of the effects of multiple concussions.
Numerous ex-players have complained of memory loss. The New York Times reported in January that brain damage caused by football ultimately led to the suicide of former Philadelphia Eagles defensive back Andre Waters.
``It really doesn't scare me,'' Morgan said. ``If I was sitting there and forgetting things I was talking about it might concern me. But there hasn't been a point where I'm forgetting where things are or I'm driving somewhere and I don't know where I'm at.
``When I hear these guys talking, that doesn't sound like what I've gone through.''
But studies show people who have suffered multiple concussions are prone to have more. And playing middle linebacker means plenty of hitting.
``You never know what lies ahead and I'm not going to go into each practice thinking, 'Oh, if I get a concussion my career is over,''' Morgan said. ``Like I said, if things happen, they happen. You move on and if they don't happen, then great.''
When he plays, Morgan is dominant. At 6-foot-2 and 245 pounds, the former first-round pick is a hard hitter with speed. He had 25 tackles in Carolina's loss to New England in the Super Bowl and made the Pro Bowl next season in 2004.
But Morgan hasn't been able to stay healthy. He's missed 40 of 96 games in his six-year career. Another concussion could end his career.
``I pray for him every day to make sure this guy makes it through the season because I know he loves the game so much,'' teammate Mike Minter said. ``If I was in his position I would probably be doing the same thing.''
Morgan wanted to come back so badly he agreed in the spring to tear up the five-year, $28 million contract he signed before the 2005 season. The new deal calls for the bulk of his compensation to be based on how many games he plays.
The Panthers insist a team of doctors have signed off on allowing Morgan to play. Morgan said he's undergone hundreds of tests and passed them all.
But is it worth it? Morgan's wife gave birth to the couple's second child five months ago.
``The minute I don't feel good is the minute I won't be playing football,'' Morgan said. ``I feel great right now. If I come back and something did happen, then so be it.''
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