By Steven Levy
What an offseason. The winds of NFL change are blowing throughout the league. Concussions, bounties and draft picks, oh my!
But it’s wearying to hear about all of this all the time. Quite ironically I feel like I’ve been beaten over the head by it. I’ve had enough. The media (yes, even the print media) is beating a live, but quickly dying horse. Concussion concerns, or more accurately concussion obsession (because the concussions themselves are a legitimate concern) , which is burning so brightly in the media light right now will slowly go away by the grace of God. Or Good – as in Goodell.
Bounty concerns too. Now the likes of Cris Carter are chiming in with the always reliably entertaining buffoon Bill Romanowski offering his predictable rebuff.
Regarding the concussion lawsuits here’s the part I just don’t buy. The claims are not that concussions are bad and that getting more of them are worse; no one denies this. The claim is far more sinister than that. The claim is that teams willingly and knowingly sent concussed players back on the field where they could then sustain more damage to their injured skulls, resulting, years down the line, in the concussion syndrome we see represented all the time now on the sports networks. The claim then is that they did this on purpose, knowing the likely end result. This would have involved not only willfully malicious behavior by the league, but also a league wide conspiracy. But it makes no sense. I’ll explain why.
If team physicians or teams themselves were smart enough to know the future damge concussions would exhibit they’d certainly also know the short term effects, namely confusion, amnesia, dizziness, ringing in the ears, nausea and fatigue (among others). Does this sound like a group of symptoms that would be beneficial to an NFL player or team? Would you want this player on the field? What coach in his right mind would have a player exhibiting those symptoms and think that this player could play at a high level? How could a player in this condition possibly help his team? The NFL is a bottom line business. This sounds like the opposite of what a team would want in a player on the field. So I don’t buy that the doctors knew about this but yet sent the players on the field anyway. Did this happen in isolated cases? Of course. But also consider that we now know far more than we ever have about this subject. You can’t consider cases in the 70’s and 80’s or even the 90’s in the same light as today.
Furthermore, I think it’s just the normal ebb and flow of societal concern (and it’s a good, worthy one), nothing more. I think the concussion issue will remain hot, peak during the upcoming season, and probably culminate at some point in time with the NFL unavoidably paying out sums to a number of players in settlements, and then, frankly, I think it will peter out to an extent. Changes have been made. We’re more aware as a society. The NFL is more aware obviously. Things will improve and then we’ll move on to the next perceived crisis.
As for the bounties, the prevailing wisdom is that “everyone does it” or “everyone has done it”. Really? Well guess what? Only one team got caught with their bounty pants down: the New Orleans Saints. And they’re getting punished for it. That’s the long and short of it really. And I don’t buy any of the players denying any involvement. To Gregg Williams’s credit he admitted to everything and apologized for it. How then could one of the players involved think that he could deny it?