After a brief hiatus, the mailbag is back. This week’s mailbag focuses on the continued discussion surrounding concussions and how the growing number of lawsuits could potentially effect the league. I also received a question regarding the Jets decision to turn down Hard Knocks, and what I think it says about the front office.
Submit your questions, comments, or concerns for next week’s mailbag on Twitter @kristinereese.
Do you think anything else will be done concerning concussions in NFL? Or do you think the league should leave it be?
I was having a pretty serious discussion with a friend on Twitter late last week about what effect the concussion debate will have on the future of the NFL, and we both decided that given the events over the course of the past few months, the increased research and awareness of head injuries resulting from the game, and the obvious commitment on the part of the commissioner, the league will continue to change. And, it could ultimately change the face of the game as we know it so much, that it will actually no longer be the game we know. This is obviously worst case scenario, but if litigation continues at it’s current rate, we could very well be looking at the end of the game all together.
Don’t believe me? Just listen to Dave Pear, an ex-NFL player who is a lead plaintiff in one of the class action lawsuits filed against the NFL. Pear is one of 1,800 former players that make up 70 complaints against the league. Pear said, “The concussion issue, if not handled right, has the potential to end football.”
Exactly how the league will change remains to be seen. I have been one of many football fans who has been very vocal about how the league is seemingly turning into flag or exhibition football, but quite honestly, in light of recent events, I really can’t blame the NFL for “dumbing down” the game to make it safer. The fact is, football is an inherently dangerous sport, and to that end, the dangers of serious injuries – head or otherwise – can never be completely eliminated. BUT, given the incredibly popularity of the sport, the fact remains that even a “less violent” version of the game will still make money and protect against future lawsuits that cost money. And after all, the NFL is a business. And not just a business for the league, it’s a business for the players, too.
So let me be clear: I am not saying I want the sport to be “soft,” bur rather, I want the sport to be safe. As safe as it can possibly be.
I – as I would imagine everyone involved in the situation does – understand and acknowledge that football IS a contract sport and unfortunately, I do not believe that a whole lot can really be done to prevent a vast majority of injuries from happening in the first place. But what I think we will see is even more measures being taken to further eliminate the type of contact that typically results in serious head trauma. This will include more changes to kickoffs (and a possible elimination of kickoffs), adjustments to punts, more rules protecting “defenseless” receivers and quarterbacks (best to not even get into t his one), increased penalties resulting from illegal hits (sorry James Harrison), and stricter rules about those who are returning to the game after suffering from head injuries, regardless of the supposed “grade” of the concussions (many medical experts do not believe that concussions can be graded as mild or major; rather, a concussion is a concussion). Additionally, advancements in equipment and medical science will allow the league to provide players will better protection against the injury, and better treatment after they occur. You will also likely see more education for both players and fans, because knowledge is power (just be prepared that not everyone will like what they hear).
We can dislike it and we can make fun of it, but I ask if you would rather see your favorite player fined $10k for a hit or the game completely taken away from us? Which would you prefer?
These adjustments and precautions are a step in the right direction, but there are two elements here that I still have questions about. One, the reality that many players may need to be protected from themselves and 2, exactly how culpable is the NFL in all of this?
Here is why I ask: Of the NFL and the concussion issue, Pear also stated, “The NFL hasn’t been honest about concussions, just the way the tobacco companies weren’t honest about cigarettes. They’re going to deny.”
This is not the first time I have heard the concussion lawsuits compared to the tobacco industry and it will not be the last. It’s a fair comparison.There is a significant amount of evidence out there saying that the NFL has not done enough to protect it’s players of the dangers of concussions and they have also not done enough to assist and care for it’s veterans that have been injured playing the game. In today’s litigation run society, these players have a case, and it’s frightening to think what this could turn into.
It’s a very complex issue and I suggest you read more about it here.
There is certainly more to come on this, and it will have a significant impact on the game going forward, but from where I sit, there still appears to be no general consensus from the current players on how the issue should be handled going forward (despite what they agreed to in the CBA). The concussion issue cannot just be solved by the league and it’s rules alone, but rather, the changes, must be accepted and respected by the players as well. This means a little less angry tweeting and cursing at Roger Goodell and a little more proactivity. The NFL is no doubt responsible for the care and treatment of it’s players, but just how much responsibility do the players share? I don’t mean to blame the players for having chosen to participate in a dangerous sport, but their behavior and attitude about prevention and awareness now could help protect them and future football players from themselves. Congratulations to all those tough guys and everything, but what happens after you are done playing? You need your brain, guys, You may not think you do, but you do.
So, again, let me be clear: This conversation is not only a reaction to “Bounty-gate” (not a fan of that term) or the suicide of Junior Seau (we don’t know the circumstances surrounding his suicide YET) but rather, the combination of the all events that have increased the dialogue surrounding head injuries. That said, I do hope that the narrative over the past few weeks has helped people realize that the bounty penalties were about a lot more than just Roger Goodell exercising his “power” over players and coaches and that it was about a larger fight and larger commitment to the safety of the players AND the league they play in. I can understand everyone’s immediate “everyone does it” reaction, but I think it’s safe to say that as long as everyone keeps doing the things they are doing in the way they are doing them, the game will cease to exist.
One more bit of food for thought: There is an increasing number of parents who are going to prohibit their children from playing football all together if the sport does not change, and I don’t just mean at the NFL level. And frankly, can you blame them? If you are a parent watching all of this happen, what you would encourage your child to do? Play football, or become one of the hundreds of lawyers involved in these lawsuits?
The Jets declined hard Knocks. You’d think they would be all over that. Could they be changing their ways?!
The New York Daily News was the first to report on Friday that the Jets had declined an offer to re-appear in the forthcoming season of HBO’s “Hard Knocks.” The news was music to Jets fans ears after an off-season filled with anonymous sources, controversial headlines and Tim Tebow.
I wrote about the team’s decision to sit out the show over the weekend, and it is still unclear who exactly made the official call to turn down the show. Rex Ryan admitted that he was unaware (and rather apathetic) about the team’s decision to not participate, despite reports suggesting he was against it and Woody was for it. It’s mostly irrelevant, but isn’t it perfectly par for the course? We know that the Jets have internal disagreements about just about everything, which includes but is not limited to their starting quarterback and how they will address a simple yes or no question with the media.
This leads me to believe that no, the team is not “changing their ways,” but rather, this is a case of someone who didn’t talk to someone else about a decision had a moment of clarity. Could it possibly lead to makeover? Maybe. But I’ll need to see more to believe it.
More proof the team has not turned over a new leaf? According to sources, the Jets have not ruled out the possibility of appearing in a feature season of the HBO hit, a revelation that surprises absolutely no one. Frankly, I won’t even believe the team isn’t appearing on the show until I actually turn on the TV this summer and see for my own eyes that they are not on it. Why is that? Because for as much as I have tried to defend Woody Johnson, he has done little to sway conventional wisdom from disbelieving that 99.99% of what he does is for publicity. (You’ll notice i didn’t say money, although money grows on a tree called publicity).
In fairness, it does appear that some involved with the team are changing their ways: Rex has lost weight (and looks amazing!) as did the majority of the defense, Tony Sparano has been brought in to save us from Schottenheimer slants, and Karl Dunbar could be installing some 4-3 looks. These are all little adjustments (and I’m making light of the situation because it’s a Monday) that could help the team improve in 2012, but they are not fundamental adjustments to the mentality and thought process of the front office, and that is something that needs to happen. But can it? Will it?
Let me give credit where credit is due: Schottenheimer needed to go. Clinkscales needed to go. Perhaps some other changes are coming and the program will truly be made-over ver the course of the next few years. But I’m not convinced that the decision to turn down Hard Knocks, while an excellent one, was the beginning of the New New York Jets. But it was a step in the right direction.