Goodell's good intentions

MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:04 PM ET

Roger Goodell is a man who knows how to pick his fights and right now one of his many battles centres on curbing the increasing number of concussions in his league.

Goodell is not to be underestimated when he takes on a task like this. His crusade to clean up the image of the league while making players responsisble for their off-field activities hasn’t been a walk in the park, yet Goodell continues to hand out punishment (normally suspensions) as he sees fit when the shield is being trod upon.

Ben Roethlisberger learned this. So did Adam (Pacman) Jones. So did a number of others.

But the fight Goodell is engaging now is a tougher one altogether and one that can’t be policed by the mere threat of suspension.

The commish is undertaking a huge mission. He wants to make the game safer for his players by looking into ways of curtailing the number of concussions.

In response to a story on NFL.com which reported Goodell would be examining potential rule changes “to reduce head impacts.”, came this comment from a typical NFL fan.

“Keep it as safe as possible without a doubt but you must understand this is football, not ping damn pong! People will get hurt and they make that decision when they agree to play for millions of dollars a year. It’s probably one of the safest “dangerous” jobs you could have. I don’t have a team of doctors waiting a few feet from me if I fall off a roof. Helmets are better than ever and the rules are getting too similar to flag football as it is.”

Fans don’t necessarily care if a guy making $4-million a year gets his bell rung once, twice or multiple times. For the most part, by the time the damage is visible, the player is long retired.

Former Dolphins linebacker Zach Thomas has no idea how many concussions he sustained while player but he does know he has had them.

Retired and raising a family now, Thomas said recently he wouldn’t change the way he played the game even a little bit and that includes lying to team trainers about concussions.

“I played through some of them, I guess,” Thomas admitted recently in a story in the Palm Beach Post. “I just said it was a sinus problem. You don’t want that (concussion-prone) label, because it’ll run you out of the league.”

And therein lies Goodell’s biggest problem in making any progress. The very guys he’s trying to protect aren’t inclined to cooperate.

Whether it’s the money, the fame, or the love of the game, there are always going to be players willing to gamble that they’ll be fine in the end to keep playing.

At a symposium on the subject Wednesday in Washington, trainers and medical staff from all 32 teams were on hand as Goodell introduced two doctors who would head up the NFL’s Medical Committee on Head, Neck and Spine.

Goodell is promising them carte blanche in terms of running the committee with no interference from the league.

At the end of Wednesday’s meeting, recommendations ranged from financial incentives to report injuries to a change in the amount of off-season contact in drills to more research into more advanced protection for the players.

The latter two seem feasible. The former sounds pie-in-the-sky.

The consensus after the meeting was more studies needed to be done on the problem.

As worthy an undertaking as this is, all the studies in the world aren’t going to matter if the very people they’re supposed to help won’t pay attention to them.

mike.ganter@sunmeida.ca


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