Bernard Pollard has contributed to the NFL safety debate on both sides. On one, he's seemingly knocked the stuffing out of many players he's played against. On the other, he's gone on the record saying that the NFL may be done in 30 years when talked to CBS Sports.
"I don't think it will be in existence. I could be wrong. It's just my opinion, but I think with the direction things are going - where (NFL Rule Makers) want to lighten up, and they're throwing flags for everything else, there's going to come a point where fans are going to get fed up with it." Certainly fans have been fed up with the rule changes, but in the interest of safety, many football fans have accepted the new reality and moved on. But for one way or another, is the league in trouble with safety now, in the mind of some, taking the football out of football? In the short term, no.
Pollard also voiced his concerns about an on-field death happening in the league sooner or later. "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've signed up for, and it sucks." Carson Palmer echoed the same sentiment in 2009. And while these concerns are genuine, and it would be big trouble for the NFL if it did happen, but with the pace of safety advancements and rule changes, death looks less and less likely to happen from contact. If anything, a cardiac arrest on the field seems the more likely if an on-field death happens, and that has already shaken college basketball to its core in 1990, and has happened in soccer numerous times in the past year, with the most famous being Fabrice Muamba in the FA Cup last year. What should scare the NFL more than an on-field death (gruesome I know, but go with it for now), is having the player pool drop considerably in quality and quantity.
President Obama said recently in an interview with the New Republic that he'd be hesitant to let his son play football because of the dangers involved. Since so many now are pathological about everything being safe and danger-free, football seems the sport with the biggest bulls-eye on it in terms of safety. Fewer parents will let their children play football because of the recently exposed health risks, which means fewer players will play all levels of football, and even fewer will now get to the NFL. Or, the best athletes will be channeled into playing basketball, baseball, and especially soccer. It's the depletion rate that might get the NFL first, before the lawsuits take a true toll.
Everyone under the sun has written recently about how football as a sport is at a crossroads, and its future is certainly marked by the path from which it takes. But is the NFL as a result doomed? We won't know the affect of what is happening today for another 20 or 25 years, because this is the first generation of kids that has been affected by knowing about CTE, and seeing the death of Junior Seau. If the football is still alive and kicking when this generation of kids becomes NFL draft eligible, then maybe the concerns about the league's viability were unfounded. There is still much more to learn about the health risks of playing football, and others sports in general as well, but at the current stage, the NFL is not doomed.
If someone does die on the field during a game, the fears might become true and the doom could start to creep in, but now, we still love football the same way we did when CTE didn't mean anything.
When a glorified flag football game can bring in 12 million viewers across the country, the game is not doomed.
At least... not now.