Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Safety, the Saints, and the NFL
Now that it's out of the way, I don't think there should have been such a big deal made about the bounties. Bounties happen on every level but don't always involve cash. Colleges and high schools give helmet stickers for big hits. ESPN used to have a segment on Monday Night Countdown called "JACKED UP!" That is from 2008. In 2009, the NFL asked that the segment be discontinued because they were starting to put the emphasis on safety. The following year concussion studies began coming out showing a disturbing trend in NFL players. This study opened the floodgates of former players talking about their concussions and studies showed the damages were worse than the NFL had let on. The suicide of NFL legend Dave Duerson sparked a lot of conversation about concussions and their effect on former players. Duerson had shot himself in the heart and left his brain to be studied. The study revealed that Duerson had chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which has been found in the brains of more than 20 recently deceased football players. This led multiple former players to file lawsuits against the NFL alleging that the NFL had intentionally hid the results about concussions from players going back as far as the 1920s.
With all of these lawsuits going around the NFL right now, Goodell had to take a tough stand on the bounty issue. Player safety is going to be a leading topic for the next few years as the lawsuits continue and Goodell is the figurehead for the organization that will face a majority of the lawsuits. He was given a great opportunity to take a stand against one of the most popular NFL franchises for a bounty program. He was going to make an example of the Saints. Saints head coach Sean Payton and the GM Mickey Loomis made huge errors by lying to the investigators about their knowledge of the bounty system. They were going to get hammered because of the bounties but when you lie to the investigators on top of that, you've upped the punishment.
Football is a violent game. I played football at the middle school, high school, and college level from 1996-2004. I had my bell rung several times and continued practicing and playing despite probably having a concussion. I know for a fact that I have osteoarthritis in my knees, hips, hands, ankles, hands, and neck. I lucked out by never having a serious enough injury to garner surgery. Would I do it all again? Yes. I knew football was a violent game going into it. I knew that there was always a risk of injury. If you play afraid, you'll get injured. You have to play fearless and with reckless abandon. I forged my best friendship outside of my marriage because of football. We went through 3-a-days, football camps, highest of highs, and lowest of lows together. Football is a great game but it is a dangerous one. Eventually they will have to improve the safety of the game to reduce the risk of concussions because as long as you have people colliding at a high rate of speed you are going to have injuries. You cannot prevent physical contact in football unless you go to a flag football game and there is no audience for people watching flag football.
The NFL, NCAA, and all the way down to peewee football will have to do the best they can to ensure the safety of their players but players and the higher ups will have to acknowledge that there is no way to make football 100 percent safe.