Don’t Let The Fact Bernard Pollard Said It Detract From The Truth Of The Message – The NFL Has A Problem

30 01 2013

bernard pollard flattening wes welker

This blog is intended for three main groups of people.

  1. Baltimore Ravens’ haters
  2. New England Patriots’ fans
  3. Football fans who think the NFL will last forever

These three groups of people will be the most likely to miss the fact that Baltimore Ravens’ safety Bernard Pollard actually has a pretty solid point.  If you aren’t aware of what Pollard said in an interview with CBSSports.com’s Clark Judge, Pollard doesn’t paint a very promising picture for the long-term future of the National Football League. To paraphrase, Pollard sees a paradox between the league losing fans by over-legislating the physicality of the sport in the name of player safety and the players continuing to get bigger, faster, and stronger.

“Thirty years from now,” Pollard said, “I don’t think it [the NFL] will be in existence. I could be wrong. It’s just my opinion, but I think with the direction things are going — where they [the NFL rules makers] want to lighten up, and they’re throwing flags and everything else — there’s going to come a point where fans are going to get fed up with it.”

Here’s where you can start to hear the dismissive waves from the three aforementioned groups…”Pollard is just a cheap-shot artist and the NFL is the most-popular league in America.”

bernard pollard patriot hitlist

Despite which group you are from, here’s what’s undeniably true.

  • Pollard has a reputation as a big-hitter
  • Pollard has earned his fair share of fines from the league, which means he has felt the effects of the league’s recent rule changes more than most
  • Fans love big hits while the league is trying to eliminate them

I will be the first to admit that Pollard probably isn’t the best guy to explore this topic at the conceptual level, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s right.

“The league is trying to move in the right direction [with player safety],” he added, “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.”

Let’s break that statement down, shall we?

Nobody can argue with the notion that moving in a direction which promotes player safety is a move in the right direction. After all, despite our collective joy-filled shrieking at watching guys getting blown up on the football field, we are not the Roman Empire. After all, hard hits are one thing, but there’s a reason why we don’t let these guys have swords and there’s a reason why we don’t chant “Finish Him!” when players get injured.  Keep that concept handy in your mind, we’ll come back to it shortly.

The part that Pollard doesn’t spell out, but yet is central to the point, has little to do with the direction the league is moving, rather it concerns the manner in which it is being driven. The reign of NFL Kommissar Roger Goodell has been one cluster-fuck after another….the suicidal nature of the 2011 player’s lockout, the “fuck you and the horse you rode in on” attitude the league displayed toward the referees during their lockout, but of all those quagmires, nothing has been more telling of how damaging Goodell has been to the league than his “crusade for player safety.”

ROGER GOODELL WANTED POSTER

His completely arbitrary nature when it came to player fines completely destroyed any goodwill that existed between the players and the league in the healing that occurred after the lockout. That was followed by his ham-fisted approach to enforcing a new set of arbitrary rules, which dissatisfied both the officials and the players; a system under which fines could be levied by the league on plays which weren’t even called penalties on the field. But nothing was worse than the New Orleans Saints’ “Bounty-Gate” fiasco.

The irony is that “Bounty-Gate” was borne of a complete Goodell over-reaction of how the existence of a “pay-to-injure” scheme would look in the light of the plethora of lawsuits the NFL is facing over the very issue of player safety. By acting in such a stupid and over-reaching manner, Goodell created problems which required the de facto recall of former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue to fix them. At the end of the day, Goodell’s stupidity made the lawsuit problems worse while effectively ending his ability to do anything about it.

In other words, the player safety issue is now right back to Square One. Hell, it is arguably in a worse position.  If you disagree with that, consider the following…go back to Pollard’s statement about what happens if we have a death on the field.

Like I said, we love skull-rattling hits, but nobody wants to see body bags on the 50-yard line. Like I said, we aren’t the Romans.

The part that nobody remembers is that we’ve already come within range of the “come to the light” moment on an NFL field.  Nobody seems to remember what happened to Detroit Lions’ linebacker Reggie Brown in 1997.  While tackling New York Jets’ running back Adrian Murrell, Brown suffered a spinal contusion which left him unconscious and motionless on the field for seventeen minutes. During a significant number of those seventeen minutes, Brown had no pulse and was not breathing, and if it hadn’t been for the prompt response and skill of the EMS team, Pollard’s worst-case scenario would have happened over 15 years ago.

What is all boils down to is regardless of what you think of Bernard Pollard, he’s exactly right. That in and of itself could be another shining example of how Roger Goodell is screwing up the NFL.

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5 responses

30 01 2013
Matt Lawton, Hero to the AAC

I also think the NFL will cease to exist in our lifetime. Perhaps not wiped clean from the face of the planet – but certainly a different package altogether.

I see the literal “Death Knell” as one possible ending to the NFL in it’s current iteration – however there is one more likely avenue.

Why does the USA trail almost every developed nation in soccer and lead almost every nation in basketball. Simple – the amount of time, money and resources spent in developing young talent. Our kids play football, basketball and baseball. Other countries kids play soccer – almost exclusively.

Ask any nation’s olympic basketball team members – do you/have you played soccer in your lifetime the answer will be 80% + yes (conservatively).

Back to my thesis – football will die at some point due to the wilting of it’s feeder program. Friday Night Lights and NCAA.

Not only does the NFL have to worry about a death – the NCAA has exponentially more D1, D2 and D3 games going on a given week and High Schools have exponentially more than that. You don’t think there is the same or more risk for a fatality in the HS or college ranks?

Have you seen the average size of an NCAA football player regardless of division? The strength and the speed too?

Watch a high school football game featuring two schools with large enrollments. I can guarantee they average 6’1+ and 265+ across both lines.

How about poorly equipped JV teams? Or sophomore teams? Or 9th grade football? Middle School even?

Something tragic is going to happen due to the evolution of the athlete vs. the evolution of the protective gear. To paraphrase Jerry Seinfeld – the stupidest invention in all of humanity is the helmet. Why? Should we really as a species be engaging in activities that so greatly risk skull fracture that we need to wear a helmet?

When something tragic happens at the Middle school – high school or NCAA level it is easy to predict what will happen: The already cash strapped schools will not be able to afford the insurance premium increase and the mandatory new equiptment standards set in place in light of whatever tradgedy befalls us.

Our feeder program – the sole reason that the NFL is so dominant that no other country could even hope to assemble a team that could possibly compete against a USA Olympic football team – will crumble and the NFL will die from the roots up.

(Seriously, what would the vegas line be on a USA vs. Russia or Europe or Canada Olympic qualifying match? USA -70? USA -90? Really – I have no concept of what this would be.)

30 01 2013
Jsportsfan

It is also worth pointing out that at one time in America, the two most popular sports were horse racing and boxing. Like football, gambling was a major reason why those sports were huge. It may not happen right away, but football will decline at some point. It might take a death on the field to change the fans perception though.

31 01 2013
aero

There has to be a lot of parents that are scared to let their sons play football. As time goes by and more information about concussions becomes available their will be a lot more. The size and speed of the athletes today has surpassed the equipment manufacter’s abilities.
If I remember correctly it was Teddy Roosevelt that almost banned football because of the number of fatalities. It could happen.

31 01 2013
ChrisHumpherys (@SportsChump)

Let’s just assume for one second, as we all would most assuredly love to do, that Roger Goodell was not the NFL commissioner and that we had a more-level headed person at the helm.

That wouldn’t change the fact that the game is going through some serious changes.

Old schoolers like us are torn between wanting to see good, classic, hard hits while not wanting to see people die or commit suicide years down the road as a result.

I don’t have the answers but I agree with the multitude: In twenty years, the league as we know it will be strikingly different.

1 02 2013
J-Dub

All solid observations. My thought is that the NFL is really limited in its growth potential because of something Lawton hit on previously in this thread. The NFL has zero interest outside of North America, and the growth of sports leagues in the future is going to be tied directly to international appeal. Soccer’s ever-growing encroachment into the U.S. is a perfect example. That’s only going to continue, especially given the fact the U.S. population is only going to get more foreign-born and/or exposed to soccer on basic cable.

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