NFL Safety, is enough being done?

Whenever you hear about safety in football there’s almost no doubt what the topic will be about, concussions. There’s no reason it shouldn’t be, concussions are some of the scariest most life altering injuries. I’m glad that this is a topic that is more widely discussed and is taken much more seriously than in the past, but at the same time I’m worried that other safety concerns are getting overlooked because all of the attention is on concussions. Over the past few years there have been repeated incidents involving certain safety concerns, but within a couple of weeks the attention dies down and little is done to make the changes needed for the players’ safety and well being.

Football is a violent game and there’s no way around that. Injuries will always happen as long as football even somewhat resembles the game that it is today. I think as both athletes and fans we have to realize that if we want football we are acknowledging the risks involved and that unless we move on to touch football there will be injuries that affect players in both the short and long term. Accepting this doesn’t mean we don’t care about players it just means we’re being realistic, but I also think it’s realistic to say that all the necessary steps aren’t currently being taken to protect the players.

Think about the case of RG3 for a minute, and not him holding a clipboard on the sidelines. Go back to the 2013 playoffs where he injured his knee that set off the chain events bringing him to his current predicament. This game is such a perfect storm of safety concerns, it’s insane to consider that despite Griffin’s former status and downfall we didn’t hear these issues brought up more after the fact and even this previous off season as Griffin’s struggles became more evident. I originally looked up this game as evidence of field conditions not being taken seriously. Griffin was injured while reaching down for a ball when he was untouched. Before this game there was some coverage, but especially after about how poor FedEx field was and actually still is. However despite these claims and the huge publicity it got the results are still a bit lacking. The next season the grass was changed to a new blend and while it held up better there were still many complaints by the end of the season. Then the next year more steps were taken and the field was re-sodded halfway through. Despite these steps the field is still known around the league as being relatively poor and many players hate the natural grass surface. In fact many players around the league hate natural grass as it causes problems in the colder months and some players will even complain about their own team’s field. Some team’s around the league take the proper steps and have a mix of artificial and natural, or switch fields with the weather to maintain a good surface. However, around the league there are still poor fields and this seems to be mostly a lack of effort. Not every team can have a great climate conducive to a having a beautiful field. But with current technology and the money available teams can do better.

Another issue associated with the Grifin injury was the fact that he wasn’t even cleared by his team’s doctor to play. I can remember hearing about this problem roughly 15 years ago when I was six or seven. What’s changed in this time? There have certainly been rule changes, but what have they really accomplished? Players are playing hurt all the time and just this season we’re hearing about this problem with Griffin’s 2012 draft rival, Andrew Luck. He apparently had broken ribs that weren’t reported for four weeks. Plus, now he has a lacerated kidney. I don’t think the two can be linked, but at the same time it still can’t be great for a person to play under those conditions and it definitely seems to be against the NFL’s code of conduct.

With both of these concerns the NFL displays the same incompetence it does with concussions. They’re slow to react at best, and at the same time the concerns of the team are placed above a player’s own need. It may not always be the fault of the organization in the case of playing through and unreported injuries, but even if it isn’t, I don’t think all the blame goes straight to the player. This is evidence by RG3’s injuries. He went on record and said he wanted to play, but was this really what he wanted or was his hand forced by his teammates, coaches, and even the fans. The culture surrounding the NFL makes it clear, the most important thing is winning and winning now. The league is giving the culture what it wants with it’s policies. The outrage over rule changes for safety happen every year, many fans aren’t happy and just want the good ol days when the quarterback could be hit. I think as fans it’s our duty to make the NFL a more responsible league and if we can show that players are more important than scores the league and franchises will respond in kind.

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