As he prepares to play in the Super Bowl, Baltimore Raven safety Bernie Pollard—best known, perhaps, for routinely inflicting season-ending injuries on high-profile New England Patriots players like Tom Brady—says the league is so violent that it probably won’t be around in three decades:
The problem? Fans love the violence. But the league is increasingly putting into place rules to soften the game; there are 4,000 former players suing the league for injuries suffered during their playing days, after all. Given those conflicting pressures, the center cannot hold:
“The league is trying to move in the right direction [with player safety],” (Pollard) said, “but, at the same time, [coaches] want bigger, stronger and faster year in and year out. And that means you’re going to keep getting big hits and concussions and blown-out knees. The only thing I’m waiting for … and, Lord, I hope it doesn’t happen … is a guy dying on the field. We’ve had everything else happen there except for a death. We understand what we signed up for, and it sucks.
“Like I said, I pray it never happens, but you’ve got guys who are 350 pounds running 4.5 and 4.4s, and these owners and coaches want scout-run blockers and linemen to move walls. At the same time, they tell you, ‘Don’t hit here, and don’t hit there, or we’ll take your money.’ Like I said, I hope I’m wrong, but I just believe one day there’s going to be a death that takes place on the field because of the direction we’re going.”
Pollard’s comments came the same weekend that President Obama said, in an interview, that he wouldn’t let any son of his play the game:
I’m a big football fan, but I have to tell you if I had a son, I’d have to think long and hard before I let him play football. And I think that those of us who love the sport are going to have to wrestle with the fact that it will probably change gradually to try to reduce some of the violence. In some cases, that may make it a little bit less exciting, but it will be a whole lot better for the players, and those of us who are fans maybe won’t have to examine our consciences quite as much.
And on a related note, former Eagles fullback Kevin Turner appeared on MSNBC’s Up With Chris Hayes over the weekend, talking about the future of football. He’s 43, has ALS—in all likelihood football-induced—and sounds like a much older man. The segment? Well worth watching: