MAQB – Concussions, Bounties, and Junior

by NFL Gimpy

Alright, let’s hand out some draft grades!

Just kidding. I got a lot of feedback last week on the draft grade column on whether or not people think drafts are gradable before the players set foot on the field. Is a player really a reach if he plays at an All-Pro level during his career? Was the value great if the player never sees the field? But then again, when you grade a draft, you’re only grading based off of whether or not that team solved needs, found value, or executed their plan to add talent. Really great stuff last week everyone.

What I want to do this week is tie the biggest stories going on right now together: Concussion lawsuits, Bountygate suspensions, and the loss of Junior Seau. This unfortunately all ties together. There are literally thousands of former and current NFL players who have health symptoms caused by concussions suffered during their NFL careers. Hundreds of them are now suing the NFL. They claim the NFL either knew or should have known the long term effects of concussions and should have taken better steps to protect players. If they did know and they concealed the information, they’re in a lot of trouble.     

With Bountygate, you have coaches and players allegedly paying $$ to injure other players. So, the NFL possibly hid the long term effects of concussions and players were intentionally hurting each other, thus causing concussions or targeting players with a history of concussions. That’s a baaaaaad combination. The lawsuit could cost the NFL hundreds of millions or more if the former players win. If the NFL knew that players were targeted like I mentioned and didn’t do anything about it, they’re instantly negligent, meaning they could have protected players and didn’t do it. The former players would instantly have firm ground to stand on to show the NFL didn’t take appropriate steps to protect them from concussions. That makes the strong punishment necessary.

As of now, the lawsuits are still in a very preliminary phase. The biggest issue is jurisdiction, who needs to oversee the trial. The NFL is trying to have the case dismissed obviously to avoid the massive amount of legal fees just to fight the case. They don’t think it’s a litigious matter, it should be handled internally through the NFL and the player’s union. Even if the players lack a leg to stand on, if the case goes to trial, the legal fees will be huge. Where it goes is obviously a key question. With the issues of Bountygate, the NFL can’t leave any wiggle room that they will condone these activities. A lawsuit of questionable validity cannot be given Exhibit A of the NFL’s negligence to player safety. Allowing bounties would be Exhibit A.

That’s why the punishments have been so severe. Indefinite suspension for Gregg Williams, 1 year for Sean Payton, 1 year for Jonathan Vilma, etc. Like I said, no wiggle room: the NFL needs to let the world know they won’t tolerate this crap. The crazy thing is that players don’t understand why. Bears LB Lance Briggs said he understands player safety but that Vilma’s suspension was too much. Lance, for the sake of you and your family, I sincerely hope you’re just an idiot and haven’t had brain cells killed by your great NFL career. If you’re just an idiot, you’ll be fine as long as smart people managed the millions of dollars you’ve made in your career.

Vilma was suspended for 1 year because he’s Exhibit A for the players involved in Bountygate. He’s accused of offering $$ to take out players, specifically Brett Favre in the NFC Championship game. The NFL needs to make sure that any player who thinks about this is instantly afraid of losing their livelihood. Same with coaches. One of the best ways to discourage a behavior is to make someone afraid of the punishment. That’s why you spank a child when they do something wrong. I just used Brett Favre and spank in the same paragraph, I hope John Madden doesn’t read this…

If you want to argue that Vilma has been martyred for the cause of player safety, I won’t argue. They are absolutely making an example of him for the reasons I mentioned above. The question is whether or not you agree with it. I do. I love the game of football. I love that it dominates the sports world. You already have players like Kurt Warner saying that he’s hesitant about letting his kids play football because of the health risks. Kurt Warner is a potential Hall of Fame QB. If he’s hesitant, how many thousands of parents are hesitant? My mom was hesitant to let me play, but not because of concussions, just generic broken bones and such. Ironically I broke 2 bones while playing 2 different sports, neither of which was football. If there were real concerns about my long term health from concussions, I may not have won that battle.

I had a teammate wander off the sidelines during a game due to a concussion. He was so out of it he just started walking around. I didn’t hear about it until we were in the locker room when a teammate was telling everyone to pray for him. Broken legs heal, concussions might not. Sure you may not be a pro athlete after a bad break, but Joe Theismann isn’t unable to earn a living because of is leg. He doesn’t forget who his family is because his leg got snapped in half.

I feel awful that so many current players are too damn stupid to know what their future might hold. You can take headshots out of the game without destroying the product. Just google Sheldon Brown Reggie Bush to see the hit Sheldon put on Reggie in the playoffs a few years ago. That’s a great, clean, football hit. Sheldon put a punishing hit on Reggie, Reggie had to take a few plays off to catch his breath, he came back on the field and is still able to earn a living. Everyone wins.

Players do seem to understand that they are going to have arthritis, body aches, bad shoulders and knees, etc. Concussions are a different animal. When you mess with your brain, crazy things happen. Just look up Dave Duerson who shot himself in the chest so his brain could be studied. He knew something was wrong with him and hoped that his death could bring answers for others.

That’s where Junior Seau comes into play. Seau isn’t a former player that was forgotten before his death. Seau is an all time great. If you have followed the NFL for more than 5 years you know exactly who he is. Current players, especially those on defense, probably grew up idolizing him. He played the game with an amazing tenacity. When he was on the field, offenses knew he would come at them with everything he had on every single snap of the game.

His fame leads me to hope he can be the martyr the NFL needs. I don’t want Seau’s death to be a senseless tragedy. I hope something good can come out of children losing their father. If it is revealed that his suicide was caused or influenced by CTE, hopefully it will be the wake-up call current players need to stop fighting change. The game is important, but hopefully you play it for less than half of your life. Players still have decades of things to look forward to after they retire. CTE, caused by concussions, can prevent that from happening. The game can still be great without headshots. The game can still be great if players miss more time than they did before because of concussions. It’s part of the NFL to succeed while players are injured. What difference does it make why they’re out?

It’s unfortunate we need bounties, hundreds of lawsuits, and a tragic death to see that the NFL and the game of football needs to do a better job protecting players. It’s even worse that there are still many people that need convinced. They’re professional athletes not gladiators. We should care about their livelihoods after they leave the game. I’m not talking about financial well being, if a player blows millions of dollars and flips burgers for a living after he retires that’s his own fault. The point is that players shouldn’t be unable to make a living because of the injuries they sustained.

Quick Hits

-I love the lack of drama with rookie contracts. I hated when a player who had yet to play a meaningful down of football held out for more $$. Now, no drama and the structure of the new CBA forces teams to give more $$ to veterans. Love it.

-Recent Titans draftee Zach Brown wasn’t happy Mike Mayock said he’s allergic to contact. Brown’s response was to challenge Mayock. Yes, the best way to prove you’re tough is to challenge a guy old enough to be your father. I’ll consider you tough when you take on Maurice Jones-Drew in the open field.

-AFC North QBs are sleeping a little bit better with Terrell Suggs injured. He said it’s only a partial Achilles tear but I don’t see how he could be effective at all this season. He may be on the field, but he won’t be a game changer like he was last season.

-Speaking of AFC North QBs, can someone explain to me why Big Ben finishing up his degree is newsworthy? Who cares?

-LaDanian Tomlinson said he’s 95% retired. I kind of hope he is because he’s a shell of his former self. I hate it when players ruin their legacy with a few “I can’t let go” years near the end. Bow out gracefully LT.

-I hate Top 100 lists. Football is the ultimate team game. Chemistry is more important than pure talent. The right system is more important than pure talent. Very few players can succeed in any scheme. A Cover 2 LB would get eaten alive if he had to attack the line of scrimmage. A pocket passer wouldn’t dominate if he had to throw on the run outside of the pocket constantly. You cater systems to the strengths of your players. A lot of times it’s a coach properly using a player’s talents that makes him special. That’s why you see a guy like Jason Babin float around the NFL until he’s paired up with Jim Washburn (Defensive Line coach of the Titans and Eagles). All of the sudden he’s a double digit sack, Pro Bowl player. Who’s more valuable, the WR or the CB who can shut him down? Would you rather have Revis or Calvin Johnson?

-I made taco burgers for Cinco de Mayo. Yes, an Americanized version of something Mexican that’s barely related to the original. Isn’t that exactly what Cinco de Mayo is anyways?

That’s all folks. Feel free to comment below.

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11 Responses to MAQB – Concussions, Bounties, and Junior

  1. theguyotc says:

    “You can take headshots out of the game without destroying the product. Just google Sheldon Brown Reggie Bush to see the hit Sheldon put on Reggie in the playoffs a few years ago. That’s a great, clean, football hit. Sheldon put a punishing hit on Reggie, Reggie had to take a few plays off to catch his breath, he came back on the field and is still able to earn a living. Everyone wins.”

    The problem is, I keep reading the real problem isn’t the few big hits that result in an obvious concussion, but the repeated small hits over time that bang the brain around. Not sure how you have football as it is now without those.

    If I were to offer an athletic kid advice, I’d point him towards baseball. No hitting of other players, plenty of guys last until their late 30s or even 40s, it’s still fairly popular as a sport, and there’s plenty of money and no salary cap.

    Too bad it isn’t half the sport football is.

    • NFLGimpy says:

      I agree you can’t completely take concussions out of the game, it’s impossible. It seems like the players with problems are guys who had concussions but kept playing, thus throwing gas on the fire. Football is a violent game, no doubt about it.

      I also agree with your baseball comment even though baseball bores me to death. If my kid is good at baseball and football, I’d much rather see him bounce around minor league teams than watch his brain bounce around his skull.

  2. makarov__ says:

    Some coaches have talked for decades about a simple solution to significantly reduce concussions in football:

    Get rid of the full face mask that helps create a feeling of invulnerability and go back to a single chin bar which is enough to help protect against broken jaws. Inevitably, it’s thought, this will limit the instances of players leading with their heads.

    Could it work? Perhaps. There is no guarantee. What’s clear is that the only thing advanced technology has accomplished with the transition from a leather cap to plastic, full face helmets is virtually eliminate skull fractures. The reason isn’t so hard to understand. Helmets protect your head. Concussions are caused by your brain impacting your skull inside your head. More could be done to spread force of an impact over a helmet, but very likely this would result in helmets being split, broken or destroyed with a single hit, requiring a player to come off the field for a play or two.

    To me, the most obvious, immediate solution is in our past – the single chin bar – and not in the future.

    • NFLGimpy says:

      I believe it’s Troy Aikman who has advocated removing helmets entirely. I believe (not looking up, just going off of memory) that Rugby has lower head injury rates despite the lack of helmets because players won’t lead with their head when they know they’ll feel it. You’ll instinctively protect your head without a helmet on.

  3. RP says:

    James Harrison said that he couldn’t change the ways he plays.

    Wonder if Goodell is going to send a message to repeat offenders before the season starts?

  4. Stephen says:

    I’ve always wondered why they don’t layer the outside of helmets with something soft and with some give to it. The way helmets seem to work right now is like banging 2 rocks together, and your head is inside one of the rocks. You could still have a hard shell underneath the outer layer but I would imagine if there was even a little give to the things you wouldn’t experience quite such a concussive impact.

    • McG says:

      I think there was an old Buffalo Bills player (at safety possibly) who wore a helmet like what you describe to deal with concussion issues.

    • ATG says:

      A soft exterior would conform to what it impacts and “stick.” neck injuries would go through the roof. Picture a leg when a soft knee pad hits the ground and the leg is yanked back. Not good if that were a neck instead of a knee.

  5. NFLGimpy says:

    Here’s why Anthony Hargrove got 8 games…

    It’s also difficult to defend Vitt or Gregg Williams. It’s now only a matter of how much players participated and were involved, not if.

  6. Big Johnson says:

    Yea I hate the grading of players before they even play, or the top 100 players, last year Mcnabb was on it. period. all credibility is lost. Just put the entire 49er’s defense as #1, not a single rushing TD all year? YA GOTTA BE KIDDIN ME. Crushing defense ftw.

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