When will Roger Goodell take definitive action against the rising problems of concussions in the NFL?
To be clear: by definitive action, I don’t mean “changing the culture,” as Goodell has unconvincingly said in past occasions. I don’t mean “[continuing] to make rule changes, invest in equipment and provide our medical staffs with the tools and authorities.” I’m not talking about how Goodell and the NFL have “[worked] on the safety of our game throughout our history — with an incredible focus on it in my personal time as commissioner.”
No, no, and no.
I’m talking about how Goodell has failed to make any convincing move to stem concussions. I’m talking about how Roger Goodell has yet to answer to why we have witnessed four players leave the game of football — all in one offseason and all citing injuries.
I’m wondering if Goodell will sit by and wait for an entire team to drop out of the league before he finally tackles the issue of concussions in his league. Is that what the commissioner is waiting for?
The time has come for Roger Goodell to take a definitive stand against concussions and injuries. Enough is enough.
All ribbing aside, the National Football League’s current landscape is troublesome, even if off-the-charts revenue and ridiculous television ratings indicate otherwise. When you hide the numbers, though, you subsequently notice how wishy-washy Goodell is — and has — been on the matter of concussions for years. You also notice how that public indecisiveness has permeated onto the field.
Quotes from Goodell — such as those mentioned five paragraphs ago — showcase his inefficient ways of approaching the injury problem in the NFL. Anyone can say (to cite Goodell’s terminology) that a policy to prevent or limit concussions is in the works. It’s simple to say that the culture of the game needs to be changed. But how vague can you get? Because when Goodell — a man in power — is unable to stand up and present an immediate solution to concussions and injuries in his game of football, the battle for safety in the NFL has been lost.
But I digress.
At this moment, it is foolish to consider football a safe sport; that fact can be seen from Pop Warner to the NFL. Just today, I saw a video of 5-year-olds hitting each other in a one-on-one drill, with the “tackler” flying his body into the unlucky “runner.” At the end of the clip, coaches could be heard — and this defied my realm of logic — congratulating the kid for the hit. And that’s just one example of poor fundamentals being set in youth football. Ever watched Esquire’s “Friday Night Tykes”? But Pop Warner isn’t important to today’s call to action. Goodell — thankfully — only has control over professionals.
The game is dangerous and everyone knows it — including the commissioner, which makes his lack of change stupefying to me. I mean, it’s clear why Goodell hasn’t done much. He’s concerned about ruining the game, and rightly so. A groundbreaking move to limit injuries could involve changing the dynamic of the NFL. But should that thought really be a turnoff for Goodell?
I’m a football fan. If Goodell decided to eliminate the kickoff tomorrow for health reasons, I would still watch the game every Sunday afternoon. That’s the truth. Because let’s not forget that this is the same league that has endured a murder accusation from a star on a flagship team; an uncovered bounty system from another of it’s ‘good guy’ franchises; a blatantly racist team name with an equally idiotic owner to match; a $765 million lawsuit from former players. Yet it still remains America’s Pastime. If fans can look past all of that, I find it difficult to believe that eliminating the kickoff will send hordes of fans scurrying away from the game.
(One note on the lawsuit example: let’s also not forget that the NFL has withstood concerning interviews and appearances made by former NFL players, some of whom can’t even remember questions asked to them by a reporter.)
Conversely, I don’t think a complete overhaul of rules is the way for Goodell to go. Even I admit that the commissioner should keep football based on physical prowess. The sport features contact by nature. But, it’s ridiculous to think the game can’t be changed to help the players. Change can and must be had, because the players that comprise the sport are constantly subjected to detrimental and potentially fatal injuries, from the knee to the head.
It may seem like I’m asking Goodell to move heaven and earth. I’m not. I am, however, asking for Goodell to make a move that has immediate implications on the game, rather than ongoing moves that — to once again reference Goodell’s vocabulary — will reduce injuries gradually, eventually, and in due time. But I’m also realistic. I know that injuries can’t be avoided completely. It’s a dangerous sport with deadly consequence. I don’t, however, want to hear that excuse from Goodell as his reason for refraining from a definitive action. Goodell has the unmatched power to execute change, and he must do so.
Although it is not my place to offer solutions for the commissioner (I’ll leave that to Goodell and his people, who are paid to conjure up such things), I will offer one nugget of advice for Goodell: do something that gives players hope after their careers. Seeing how former NFL players look at 50 and 60 should be enough motivation for Goodell. Finding signs of CTE in the brains of living former players should be enough motivation. Three players under 30 retiring in one offseason should be enough motivation. Reports showing that concussions affect the parts of the brain tied to mood and memory should be enough motivation.
The NFL can always do more. But it’s up to the commissioner to start. So if Goodell needs motivation, the forms are clearly bountiful. But that isn’t his problem. It’s his decisiveness, or lack thereof. To this point in time, it’s been missing from Goodell. That is what’s hurting the NFL