by Jackson Hongtong ‘21 and Aaron Jaffe ‘21
The Philadelphia Eagles closed out the 2017-18 season with a 41-33 victory over the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. The Eagles are the champs, but are they really the best team… or just the team that overcame injuries with the critical help of a backup quarterback?
The final week of the NFL injury report listed 326 total injuries across the entire league. The list included superstars such as the Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (out 8 weeks with a broken collarbone), New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr (out for the season after week 5 with a ankle injury) and Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson (out since the opening game with a dislocated wrist).
Commissioner Roger Goodell has proven inept at addressing the issue of injuries throughout the years and yet recently he was given an extension worth $200 million over the span of five years. The odds that Goodell will do what is necessary to make the NFL a safer environment for its players are not good. However, three simple fixes could go a long way towards reducing the number of injuries in the NFL.
The first way to end some of the unnecessary injuries is to get rid of Thursday night football. Players do not get the rest they need, especially when they play a game Sunday and have to turn around five days later to play one on Thursday. Having to go from city to city in this short number of days with the stress and ache on one’s body can not be safe to any of these players. A good example is when future Hall of Fame quarterback of the New Orleans Saints Drew Brees openly complained about the injuries after the Thursday night game against the Atlanta Falcons when he had multiple teammates leave late in the game due to injury.
The league also must re-visit the flawed concussion protocol put in place to evaluate players who had taken shots to the head during a game. The protocol is broken when a team like the Seattle Seahawks are able to take superstar quarterback Russell Wilson and deem him able to return to a Thursday night game versus the Arizona Cardinals after suffering a concussion. Later, Seattle was fined $100,000, a slap of the wrist fine in NFL money terms. Increase the fine in the 1-2 million dollar range and teams will be more careful about throwing a concussed player back in the game on this policy.
Hard hits are a part of the game, no doubt about it. It is what many fans love to see. But for the players, these hits can take years off their careers or maybe even off their lives. Safety has to become a bigger role in the league. So in addition to changing the rules of hitting, why not use safer equipment? For example, a helmet named the ZERO1 would provide better cushion against vicious collisions while keeping the same modern helmet look. The helmets are voluntary to use now and the best probability why they aren’t required is because of the high price tag. But isn’t the safety of the players more critical than saving some money?
If the NFL does not fix these issues with injuries, the game of football we know today may never be the same, or may not even have a future at all.