Hall of Fame QB Troy Aikman went all Nostradamus on us in a recent interview by predicting the eventual fall from grace for the NFL. Aikmans’ concerns are that the NFL is becoming an over saturated product and concussion concerns will affect participation in youth football and thus erode the feeder programs that create NFL players. Aikman went so far as to say that if had a son he isn’t sure he would let him play football. That is a very powerful statement. I like Aikman a lot. I think he is one of the better color analysts in all of professional sports. He is obviously a smart guy and knows what he is talking about. I agree with hime on both counts. The NFL should not be expanding its Thursday Night football package. Many fans applauded the decision when Roger Goodell announced prior to the Super Bowl that next season the slate of Thursday Night NFL games will run from week 2 thru week 15 next. Personally, I hated the decision. I can’t get enough of good NFL football, but week night games just aren’t as good. Limited preparation and little time for players to recover from the normal bumps and bruises associated with the rigors of an NFL game often result in sloppy bad football in Thursday Night match ups. Thursday games should be reserved only for special events such Thanksgiving and Opening weekend. What separates the NFL from other sports leagues is that each game each week is an event. Too many offerings dilute the product and make the events seem less important.
The concussion issue is a much stickier problem to deal with. I’m against many of the safety rules the NFL has instituted because I feel they change the essence of the game. But I understand the need for the sport to be reasonably safe for players of all ages. If the cost of lawsuits and insurance becomes too great then amateur programs at all levels will struggle to exist. The NFL needs to do more to stem the litigation against football programs starting with their own. They need to fess up that mistakes were made in evaluating and advising players to play through concussions in past generations. They need to take better care of retired players. Would Tony Dorsett and Jim McMahon be suing the NFL if they didn’t feel the league was trying to cover up for their negligence on concussions. I don’t believe concussions can be eliminated from football but they certainly can be dealt with better. The NFL needs to be a leader in stringent guidelines for dealing with concussions. The NFL has made strides in implementing new protocols for evaluating concussions on the field and removing players from action. Unfortunately it took the heavy criticism of the handling of obvious injuries to Kris Dielman and Colt McCoy for these new protocols to be instituted. The NFL cannot continue to let embarrassing moments force needed change. They need to get in front of these situations. Players should be forced to sit at least one game after a concussion no matter if they pass their baseline tests or not.