Player Safety: Who should be Held Accountable?

The NFL is back! Football is back! As a lifelong fan of the support, this is a joyous occasion and reason to celebrate. At least, it should be reason to celebrate. With the NFL season, and the excitement that comes with it, comes the misery of dealing with “those fans” that like to constantly complain about the NFL and its operations. These “fans” claim to be diehard fans, and yet, all they do is complain about everything the NFL does and every decision they make. Right on schedule, these “fans” have started their complaining immediately following the first game of the season. This complaining is not new. It concerns an issue that the complainers like to bring up at least once a year. This issue is player safety.

Let’s get something straight. Player safety is a serious issue in the NFL and not something to be taken lightly. There is, however, an issue with player safety in the NFL. This issue is simple, yet, it is very complex. When it comes to player safety, who should be held accountable? In addition, who is to blame for the apparent lapses of policy when it fails? Reading articles for sports writers and reading what the complainers have to say on Social Media, one would be lead to believe that the NFL should be held solely accountable for player safety. To be fair, that’s what the current policy and expectations would state; especially when it comes to the concussions protocol.

When the Broncos and Panthers played this past Thursday, the nation was up in arms about the NFL’s failure with its concussion protocol in regards to Cam Newton and the shots he took to the head. There was a moment in which Super Cam appeared to be dazed and confused, which are some of the key indicators of a concussion. Cam, however, was not pulled from the game to enter the protocol and played the very next play. The NFL Concussion Protocol states that the player must pass tests by the team physician and an independent consultant on the sidelines. What is lost in the anger and belief that this process was not followed with Cam is that there was a two minute break in action before Cam participated in the next play in which the NFL states that the correct process was followed in regards to protocol. It does, however, make one think, “Why was the NFL solely responsible to protect Cam in this case?”

That is a valid question. When there are dozens of other players and coaches on the field at the time, why is the NFL to blame when the concussion protocol fails or when player safety protocols fail? Rewind to last season when Case Keenum was allowed to stay on the field when he was clearly not fit to play. Why was the NFL trashed and held responsible for that incident of failure in protocol but the other players and coaches were not? The answer to that question is not complex. It’s simple and it’s not suitable. We don’t know.

While the complainers and sports writers love any chance they can get to bury the NFL, which sometimes they have valid points, they fail to place the blame among others who should also be held responsible. First, the coaches are to blame as well. While they are on their soapboxes after the game, shouting that the NFL needs to protect its players, they need to take a look in the mirror. Why are you (the coach) not protecting your player? If we could all see on national TV that Cam should have been checked for a concussion and removed from the game, how did Ron Rivera (who was right there on the sideline) not see that? Why is he not held as responsible for the safety of a player, a human being, who he interacts more frequently than the NFL and claims to care about?

Second, and to a lesser extent than the coach, the player has to take a little blame as well. This may not apply strictly to concussions since the player may not be in his right mind at the time. That being said, there are instances in which a player knows when something is not right and will ignore it but seek to blame the NFL when their career is done. For something that seems very logical and easy to understand, the reasoning to why the blame is placed on the NFL is complicated and hypocritical.

Many seek to blame the NFL when protocol fails because they claim the NFL only cares about money and not the players. Is this not the same mentality of players and coaches? We have heard players on many occasions state that they have ignored injuries to play because they don’t want to miss out on that paycheck. I’ll even take that a step further. Whether coaches want to admit it or not, their paycheck and career depends on their star players. While people complain that Cam should have been taken care of, they would have roasted Ron Rivera if Cam was taken out of the game and a backup would have committed a turnover.

Simply put, just stop. Just stop it with the constant complaining about the NFL not taken care of its players. While the NFL is not blameless in the matter, there are many others that need to take the blame as well. If we’re going to be mad at one party, we need to be mad at all parties.

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