Since the multitude of concussion episodes in the NFL last weekend, the media coverage has been relatively positive. A quick google news search returns 2,680 results for the search term “NFL Concussion” dated between Sunday and Wednesday. (http://bit.ly/9ExWRx) But something happened yesterday afternoon. NFL players (specifically defensive players), bloggers, radio hosts and guests began making considerably more negative comments about the NFL decision to impose suspensions as opposed to fines.
Across the web you will find various references to how football is a “warrior’s” sport and how it has and always will be dangerous. Many news outlets reported on James Harrison’s comments about having to sit out NFL games until he can learn to tackle or possibly just retire from the NFL because he doesn’t think he can play the game under the NFL’s rules (maybe in some strange way he is correct… maybe he should step away from the sport if he only knows how to play is to injure others). Other players felt that the NFL response is a material rules change that should be addressed in the offseason and subject to the collective bargaining agreement. But one comment by Miami Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder really stands out…..
“If I get a chance to knock somebody out, I’m going to knock them out and take what they give me. They give me a helmet, I’m going to use it.”
While I could spend an entire post about how a helmet was never intended to be used as a weapon (as he is implying) or if this is the only way you can play defense, maybe you don’t have enough talent or speed to play that position…but the real problem with the quote is the amount of “air time” this quote will receive throughout the weekend. The re-airing of the quote and subsequent discussion will do more damage than Crowder could ever induce on the field. High school and Pop Warner football players all over the country will see this quote, and as anyone who works with this demographic will tell you a certain (possibly large) percentage will agree. I don’t want to give Crowder too much credit for creating this negative swing in the press, as many other NFL players supplied quotes yesterday. While I hope these quotes don’t completely swing the majority of the press from the important topic of head injuries, it appears the tide has turned for this week. So, as we wait to see what hits bring fines and suspensions this week, here’s one final thought. The NFL has enough image problems off the field (see Brett Farve stonewalling investigators) they certainly don’t need comments like these during a week when so many good articles and discussions on head injury have occurred. Roger Goodell and other NFL officials will say that they are trying to change the culture of football and it will take time…this comment certainly illustrates everything that is wrong with it.