September 30, 2014

Concussions Will Change the NFL

The NFL has to do something about the growing issue of concussions. Legally, they must show due diligence in addressing this problem as the medical community establishes links from concussions to issues later in life. And morally, it is the right thing to do. We don’t want the greats of the league resembling Mohammed Ali in their 50′s.

What the NFL and NFLPA choose to do will alter the game, whether for good or for bad.

Whatever course is chosen, there will be plenty of resistance. Players want to play. They’ve fought their way through all type of pain growing up. It’s what they do. And their livelihood is out there on the field. They don’t want to risk losing their spot to another guy. Coaches want their best players on the field too. They are paid to win games. And fans want their favorite guys on the field. We worship at the altar of victory, and we revel in gloating over the vanquished.

But there is no way to stop the growing momentum toward caution. With concussions exhibiting no external, visible signs, the league will eventually be forced to enforce caution and have medical staff on hand that can pull players that they believe have (and eventually could have) a concussion.

It is going to change everything.

Take the latest example where serial headhunter James Harrison drilled the crown of his helmet into Colt McCoy’s grill last Thursday. The Browns are taking a lot of heat for putting McCoy back into the game two plays later, even getting a surprise visit from the NFLPA on Monday. Apparently the medical staff did not even administer the standard concussion test, possibly because McCoy deflected their attention to his hand. And possibly because the game was still close, but the underdog Browns had little chance to with with Seneca Wallace slinging the ball.

Mistakes like this will further efforts to have non-affiliated medical staff on hand to pull players. And it will only take a couple of mistakes by those people (fooled by a player who lies to get back on the field) for a policy of benching under suspicion of concussion.

(I’m not taking issue with this. I’m simply stating where I think this road will lead over the next couple of years.)

Don’t think players like Harrison won’t try to use that policy to their advantage. Facing an opponent with a player you fear you can’t defend? Easy, concuss him. Or get medical staff to think he might be concussed.

That frightens me.

It won’t take too many key players getting their helmets taken from them before fans are clamoring for the offender to be sat too. Wouldn’t that be fair? Fines are laughable at this point. So sit the hitter. They can’t endorse headhunting.

And then will comes guys faking concussions to get opponents benched.

Welcome to the NFL of the future.