The death of Junior Seau has led to a wide array of past and present NFL players speaking out in regards to the concussion problem faced by the most popular sport in America.

Kurt Warner’s fear of letting his children play football sparked heated debate, while former Washington Redskin LaVar Arrington lamented the ongoing ‘sissification‘ of football. Cris Carter acknowledged the presence of bounties during his playing days, and cited an example involving the consistently insane Bill Romanowski.

Truth be told, the past year has been a public relations nightmare for the NFL, and Roger Goodell’s attempts to address the issues that have plagued the league – negotiating the new CBA, the bounty scandal, salary cap circumventions – could be deemed relatively successful.

DeMaurice Smith, Goodell’s adversary during the CBA negotiations, hasn’t fared as well.

It’s unlikely the union will be able to get the suspensions of Jonathan Vilma, Scott Fujita, Anthony Hargrove and Will Smith reduced. But in the bigger picture Smith and his fellow executives will have to tread a fine line with CTE and the concussion issue. On one hand, the players the union currently represents have a clear financial interest in maintaining the status quo – they earn their paychecks for playing a certain style, one that’s inherently violent. Retirement for players who’ve just entered the league is out of sight, and out of mind.

The PA did yeoman’s work while ensuring an increase in benefits for retired players in the last CBA negotiations. This included the Neuro-Cognitive Disability Benefit:

The Neuro-Cognitive Disability Benefit was created for any vested former player suffering from any neuro-cognitive impairment. For the first time, former players do not have to demonstrate football causation to qualify, which removes a tremendous burden from a disabled player. Additionally, any vested former player with one credited season after 1994 is eligible.

The benefits won by the PA were a step in the right direction for a sport that’s treated it’s former players pretty damn poorly at times. In light of the recent comments made by Warner, Carter, and Arrington, it’s worth seeing how the new generation is responding:

The lesson: respect your elders doesn’t apply when livelihoods are at stake.

Comments (5)

  1. Though the threat to the sport is very real, I still think it is being overplayed / overaccelerated in the last week or two. The league needs to accomplish two things in order to put the bulk of this to bed. One is to improve the level of post-retirement health care benefits. And second, they need to find a way to drastically reduce the risk of concussions. I used to hate this idea, but the more I think about it, I think eliminating helmets would really help. Players use the helmet as a weapon, and overvalue it as a means of protection. The helmet does nothing to minimize concussions, since it doesn’t cushion the brain inside the skull. Take away helmets, and players will actually play and hit at speeds that are much safer for their health. Fans won’t like it, violence will be reduced, but VIOLA concussions will go down.

    • An intriguing idea to say the least. The James Harrison’s of the world would certainly think twice before leading with their heads without a helmet. Though for fans it would be incredibly tough to get over aesthetically. I guess that’s the ultimate question. Do we really care if these guys can’t function when they’re 50? Does the compensation equal the physical toll? You can make a strong argument it does.

      • Some of the worst hits come on special teams, though, and most of those guys don’t earn the big bucks. I think fans in general would hate the idea, and if the NFL actually adopted this approach full bore, there would be a LOT of screaming from fans. They’d probably have to make a slower transition – start with less protective headgear, move to old school leather after a couple years, that sort of thing. Players just don’t look as impressive w/o helmets on, I think the visuals would suffer dramatically. And the LOGOS – helmets are a big part of the uniforms… But regardless I think players value their (alleged) good looks, and many would start to protect their faces from getting mangled.

        • There have been whispers (i believe the Giants owner- Mara, wants this to happen) about removing kickoffs entirely. I’m not against it. With KO’s moved up to the 35 yard line they’re pretty much irrelevant as it is. It’d be a positive step in terms of player safety.

  2. Brian sounds awfully bald.

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