Originally written on NESN.com  |  Last updated 11/15/12

NEW YORK - APRIL 22: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announces that the St. Louis Rams selected quarterback Sam Bradford from the Oklahoma Sooners first overall during the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 22, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
The irreparable bodily and cognitive damage NFL players face every time they step out onto a football field has always been seen as ‘what they signed up for.’ But did they know they might actually be signing up for a death sentence? The game of football has evolved over the decades since its inception in the early part of the 20th Century, and it just continues to grow. The speed of players, the ferocity of some hits, the vicious tackles and, of course, the blows to the head are all part of the game’s evolution. But those elements are also of great concern to the long-term health and well being of these players. Yet, it continually seems that the NFL is just not doing enough counter the brutal and lasting effects many players suffer during their playing careers, and even in their post-football lives. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell addressed the safety issue and the NFL’s plan to better protect their employees — that’s right, they are employees — during a lecture at the Harvard School of Public Health on Thursday. But while Goodell spoke openly and seemingly unconstrained to a room full of hundreds of students, faculty and media members, the questions about player safety were never fully quelled nor the growing concerns eased. Goodell did his best to reduce the pressure from the situation by acknowledging the clear elephant in the room almost from the start. “The game of football is thriving, it’s more popular than ever. But we’re at a crossroads,” Goodell said of the issue of player safety. “I can say in no uncertain terms that [concussions are] our biggest challenge. “We want players to enjoy long and prosperous careers. “ The average career for an NFL player is about 3 1/2 years, which means that either Goodell’s definition of the phrase “long and prosperous” is skewed or that the NFL is merely not meeting its own expectations. But then again the issue isn’t necessarily the length of players’ careers, but rather their safety on the football field. The issue of health and safety in football took center stage over the weekend, as seven players were forced from NFL games with concussions. Some of those players, Jay Cutler and Alex Smith specifically, even remained in the game for a few plays after the injuries occurred. Smith’s ability to throw a touchdown with what 49ers head coach called “blurred vision” should never have taken place. And such an occurrence is a prime example of how the NFL is failing to properly care for its players. Goodell did make the point that without full disclosure from players, the medical staffs wouldn’t be able to properly enforce the policies saying, “If they don’t tell medical professionals that they’re showing symptoms, how are we going to know to take them out?” But there has to be a more efficient system for trainers or coaches to know whether a player needs to be removed from the game. To his credit, Goodell took on the player safety issue like no commissioner before. In less than a year of reigning on the NFL throne, so to speak, Goodell brought in third-party experts, instituted brain baseline testing, standardized concussion reporting, created preventative measures for such injuries and even established a “whistle blowing hotline” for players who might feel pressure to return to the field in face of a concussion. In his lecture, Goodell just padded the stats on his resume, referencing research and developments being made to equipment to better handle the impact of hits. He also mentioned the adjustment of rules, such as moving the kickoff up to the 35-yard line to help avoid such high-speed collisions. Goodell even went on to discuss the NFL’s partnership with the U.S. military in “working to make soldiers and athletes safer.” All of those are really nice and productive measures for the league. But how exactly is this going to impact the players currently suffering the lingering effects of concussions and potentially life-altering injuries or mental conditions down the road? Because if guys are just ignoring the safeguards and restrictions put in place, like Smith and Cutler did on Sunday, then how do we expect to ever eliminate or more realistically decrease the severity and frequency of such injuries? The answers obviously aren’t clearly written on a tablet somewhere, instructing which commandments Goodell needs to enact to make for a safer league. Otherwise, this debate wouldn’t even be happening — but more needs to be done. The game of football is a violent and contact-driven sport. That is part of what makes the game so great in the first place. The pure adrenaline filled moments. The gladiator-like battles that go on between defensive end and offensive tackle, running back and linebacker or receiver and defensive back are what make for such an entertaining and impressive product. But where is the line drawn between gladiator and human being? The current measures Goodell and the NFL have taken are a good step in the right direction. But more needs to be done. Goodell’s acknowledgement that “change doesn’t inhibit the game. It improves it,” is encouraging. Sure. But at some point the results need to meet all this chatter. Fact is, talk is cheap. No matter how eloquent it may sound. Have a question for Luke Hughes? Send it to him via Twitter at @LukeFHughes or send it here.
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

DeSean Jackson: Revis, Sherman can't stop me

Rob Gronkowski on Patriots LB Jamie Collins: ‘He’s a freak’

Ray Allen won't officially retire in case he gets right offer

Cam Newton on taking hits: I'm not a ballerina

Warner impressed by progress made by pupil Kaepernick


Yordano Ventura threatened Jose Bautista on Twitter

Giants GM confirms he has spoken with Jason Pierre-Paul

Sam Bradford on target to start season opener for Eagles

NFL official: Footballs known to have leaks 'right out of the box'

Bills suspend assistant coach for first six games of 2015

Trent Richardson has 50-50 chance at making Raiders roster

Oregon was only team drug tested during CFB Playoff?

Five 2nd year NBA players ready to take the next step

John Daly wants to be US Ryder Cup captain

Rodgers appears in another Olivia Munn workout video

Matt Hasselbeck is still getting random drug tests

Five teams that won at the MLB trade deadline

What should be expected from Aaron Rodgers in 2015?

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is waiting for Tim Duncan to match him

Report: James Harden received $200 million offer to join Adidas

Adrian Peterson, son featured in Vikings' 'Family Day' tweet

July's best and worst players in Major League Baseball

Why TCU and Baylor will again dominate the Big 12

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Notre Dame doesn't need a conference

Rex takes jabs at Jets' management

Sanchez: It's 'crazy' to call Chip racist

Ronda Rousey calls out Cyborg

Five most underrated players in the NFL

Five potential NFL salary cap casualties this preseason

Winners and losers of the 2015 MLB trade deadline

Pirates do Pirates at deadline: Neat little moves

Mets acquire Cespedes from Tigers

Ranking the NFL’s 32 head coaches

Five worst baseball trades since 2000

Examining the state of the NFL

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Follow Yardbarker