What was the purpose of one of the NFL’s top executives telling a Congressional round-table that there is definitely a link between chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and football? That’s debatable. It was just weeks ago during Super Bowl week that officials from the NFL were denying any such definitive link between this disease and the game of football.
Jeff Miller, the NFL’s senior vice president for health and safety, made the comments on Monday but did not answer any follow-up questions after the session.
On Tuesday, the NFL released a statement backing up their guy. “The comments made by Jeff Miller yesterday accurately reflect the view of the NFL.”
Miller’s comments were immediately linked to the near billion dollar concussion settlement the League made with hundreds of former players. The settlement has not been finalized, and Miller’s statement could impact the three judge panel who is considering objections from several groups of players not happy with the settlement.
The legal waters were already murky enough involving the concussion settlement. Jeff Miller has made them even more cloudy and given lawyers defending former players new ammunition.
In the long term, this admission by the NFL could change the game of football even more than we’ve seen over the past few years. More rule changes could be on the way in the NFL and college football to keep the number of direct hits to the head to a minimum.
Those new rules will also continue to trickle down to the high school level as well as youth football leagues. There are reports of flag football gaining in popularity in some parts of the country as parents are more aware than ever of the dangers involved with tackle football.
The game of football in is no danger of going away. It’s too popular and pervasive in American society.
The nature of the game is in danger however as it becomes increasingly obvious that it is simply a bad idea to play the game. Forget the possible knee injuries, broken bones, and various sprains. Short and long term brain injuries are not something that people in 2016 are going to continue to ignore.
Just the fact that the NFL itself has now acknowledged the link between CTE and its cash cow of a game should open the eyes of football fans everywhere.
It should also prepare us for the possibility of more government regulation of football. It may sound crazy to have the federal government step in to create a safer work environment for NFL players, but the fact is that these ballers are employees.
Why should their workplace be any less safe than a construction site, automobile factory, or a warehouse?
I certainly don’t agree with all the insane rules of organizations like OSHA, but I can see them eventually playing a role in the safety of NFL workers who just happen to catch passes or tackle their co-workers while on the job.
Of course, football is a different animal, and most of the guys in this sport don’t want any outside officials telling them how they should play the game. Even if it means they would be safer and healthier in the long run.
There are some jobs that are just inherently risky. Skydiving instructors have safety rules to follow, but wouldn’t it be safer to just outlaw jumping out of a perfectly good airplane?
Window washers working on 80 story buildings is a terrible job and clearly dangerous. No amount of OSHA regulations can make this job 100 percent safe.
How about NASCAR drivers screaming around the track at about 200 mph? What could be more dangerous? Yet, you can only make it so safe before you take the fun out of it. Limiting speeds to 95 mph would prevent many injuries and save lives. It would also run off about half the fan base.
The NFL has no choice but to keep evolving toward a safer game. That evolution will seem extreme to old school football fans like myself.
Yet if we want to see the game we love survive, these changes are ones we’ll have to live with.
The lawsuits are not going to stop anytime soon. So the NFL has to be aggressive in pursuit of a happy medium between safety and a physical game that still gives fans what they want.