An Open Letter to Roger Goodell About Player Safety

Commissioner Goodell,

Thank you for caring so much about the hard-working athletes in the National Football League. In a world where ratings-hungry television moguls, violence-obsessed media and steroid-injected “athletes” drool over excessive physicality, it’s nice to see that someone associated with the game is thinking about the long-term safety of the people who make the game go ’round.

Your recent proposal to eliminate the kickoff from the sport will almost assuredly save countless lives by reducing the high-impact collisions that occur on these unnecessarily risky plays. Six or seven of these high-injury sequences per game might be the difference between a man living or dying and I don’t think anyone truly grasps that except you, Mr. Commissioner. Without the kickoffs to worry about, players can focus on the safer plays like goal-line dives, punt returns and blitzes.

New rule: at least this much room between players at all times

New rule: at least this much room between players at all times

It’s moments like these, Mr. Commissioner, that remind us of all of the safety-first steps that you have advanced in your tenure with the NFL. We need look not even a full year back to glimpse your passion for player safety driving the push for an increase in Thursday night games. This season we can enjoy 106 players going on three days rest starting in Week 2 and continuing weekly through Week 15. With such a high level of safety on television an extra three hours of primetime each week, we’re almost surely driving safety awareness to a sky-high new level. A bold move away from all these money-hungry advertising mongers who put the players themselves a distant second to the ever-present Profit.

It was your brave decision, Mr. Commissioner, to push forward with an 18-game season a couple of years ago. Few associated with the game would have the fortitude to expand the safety of the players with two additional regular-season games, but you could see past those resistant to change. Only you could see a 16-game season riddled with maladies that cause pain years after the final horn has sounded and see with such clarity that the best solution  was to introduce 120 more minutes of annual action for each player.

Just a year ago, after you courageously negotiated a deal between the NFLPA and the owners, it was you, Mr. Commissioner, who wisely decided to cut the wear and tear of summer practices and training camps in the interest if playing a full 16-game season. If the rest of the football universe had been as safety-focused as you, there may have even been two additional games after that. The extra time off surely benefited the players and being thrust immediately into competitive game action with no ramp-up practice time potentially saved them from those nagging training camp injuries.

We owe you a sincere debt of gratitude, Mr. Commissioner. Your concerns have single-handedly improved the safety not only of NFL players, but of people worldwide.

*Editor’s Note: Football is a dangerous game. It’s truly unfortunate that players who work so hard to perform at a high level (or anyone at all) suffer serious injuries, but it’s an understood cost of the game. To pretend that there is a “safe” or even “safer” way to play professional football is a fool’s errand. Technological advances in equipment can marginally affect injury risk, but it’s a physical game being played by the biggest, strongest, fastest men alive and there are dozens of high-impact collisions on every snap. Injuries will happen. No one involved in football should ever be described as invested in “player safety.” It’s an oxymoron. Football in inherently unsafe. 

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