Greetings Mr. Goodell,
I think it's great that you (and/or those connected with the Commissioner's Office) care enough to visit forums like these to see what fans of NFL Teams think from time to time. On the off chance that you actually do visit this thread and read some of these comments, I'm going to share some overall thoughts on an issue that has gotten a lot of press and attention in recent years. I know the league office has made it a point to try to reduce some of the violent collisions that we see in the NFL. As such, new rules have continued to be put in place year after year with the idea of cutting down on serious injuries to players. And certainly many of us fans understand the reasons for that in light of cases of like Junior Seau. As a former mental health therapist, I have studied the effects of repeated blows to the head over time and the long term neurological damage that can occur at length. Certainly player safety should be a real focus for you and league officials ... because in a great many cases, players need to be protected from themselves. I know that rule changes such as have been implemented and new, better equipment can help reduce some of the long term injuries that we see for players later in life.
That said, I do have a lot of concerns about the level of legislation and where this is all heading and the consequences that these new rules are going to have on the overall product long term. I grew up and became a fan of the NFL beginning in the late 1970's. As a youngster, part of the attraction of the NFL for me (and I know a lot of fans) was in watching big bone jarring hits. Guys like Jack Tatum, Ronnie Lott, Lawrence Taylor, and Kenny Easley is a real part of what helped make me a fan of the NFL in the first place ... and I know that's true for a lot of other fans of the NFL as well. That's part of the attraction of the game. Case in point -- this past year Kam Chancellor had an absolute text book hit on Vernon Davis of the 49ers. You can't teach tackling any better at any level (pee-Wee, high school, college, etc.) ... and it was called a penalty. Most Seahawks fans like myself went immediately from elation to enraged bewilderment. Penalties like this one for hard nosed play ... that are being made all throughout the NFL ... should be of concern for all frankly. There's player safety ... and then there's cutting off your nose to spite your face.
There is an African parable that I believe illustrates the issues related to football perfectly. A frog who is about to cross a river is approached by a scorpion who asks for a ride across on his back. The frog protests at first, telling the scorpion that he would sting the frog and that he would die. The scorpion assures the frog that he wouldn't do that, so reluctantly the frog agrees to carry him across the river. About halfway during the swim however, the scorpion stung the frog. As the poison slowly filled his veins, the frog in a state of shock and utter disbelief asked the scorpion, "Why did you do that? Now you'll die too." The scorpion replied, "I couldn't help myself. It's my nature. You knew what I was when you picked me up."
Back in 1990, I attended a conference in which Steve Largent was the keynote speaker. He said something during the question and answer period that I never forgot. Largent was asked whether or not he had talked to his boys about football and whether or not he was going to allow them to play. Largent said he'd had very frank conversations with them about the sport of football, telling them in essence, "It's not IF you get hurt ... it's when. If you play football, you WILL get hurt." I read a very interesting article from the Seattle Times several years ago (that I'm planning to share with my boys someday) entitled, "Life After Football: No Game, Still Pain"
. The piece details the post careers of former NFL players Curt Marsh, Norm Evans, Reggie McKenzie, Ed Cunningham, Bill Curry, Bob Newton, Grant Feasel, and others. All of those guys have dealt with unbelievable injuries, have had multiple surgeries, and live with chronic pain and disability related to their careers as NFL players. And to a man ALL of them say that if they knew then what they know now ... they would probably do it all over again. NFL players all know on some level that they could (and probably will) eventually pay the price for playing this sport. The scorpion will sting eventually because violent play (and subsequently injury) are the nature of the game. Everyone who dons a helmet accepts that stark reality.
By all means Mr. Goodell, do what you can reasonably do to help minimize long term crippling injuries without damaging the integrity of the game. But understand this: Football by its very nature is a violent sport -- period. You cannot legislate out hard nosed play and violent hits because if you do ... you will not only destroy the essence of the game itself ... you will kill the incredibly profitable Golden Goose that is the most popular sport in America.
I don't envy your job whatsoever Mr. Commissioner, as I know that you have extremely passionate people on both sides of this debate. I can only hope that you are surrounded by good advisors who are well acquainted with the issues at hand and will help you in making the best decisions possible that will be most beneficial for all involved. If you have read this, thank you for taking the time to listen to one fan's views and concerns.