The quarterback steps to the line. He checks over the linebackers and the safeties, judging their positions and stances. He looks for any sign that will tip off the defensive play selection. After carefully going through the routes in his head, the quarterback stays with the play called. He looks to his four receivers and smiles. The ball is hiked and the quarterback takes a five step drop. He knows full well there will be no rush for a count of "Five Mississippi". He smiles, knowing once again that the day will be his...
If you think this harkens back to the days of school ground football, you are correct. Those were the true days of heaving up the ball and hoping for the best. Well, those days might not be far off again. With much of the focus of today's NFL on safety, it's hard not to imagine that the quarterbacks will be fitted with permanent red jerseys and will not allowed to be hit for a count of five seconds. With that much time, a professional quarterback will have plenty of time to find an open receiver, even with teams playing 8 deep in coverage. Of course, all defenders will have to give an eligible receiver at least a 2 yard window before allowing to hit them or go for the ball. The days of the "No Fun League" have truly begun.
Of course, much of this is an exaggeration, at least at the present moment. Over the last five years, concussion studies and player safety have been a main topic on the minds of current and former NFL players and associates. I certainly understand the concern, what with all of the post-career related injuries and suicides. Studies have done to back up this claims, with many former players hardly able to walk around,get out of bed, or simply play a round of golf. On top of that, retirement and pension money was very little to go around. Many players are not equipped to hold down a job post their playing careers. Sure, the good ones seem to move on to coaching, broadcasting, or something in the related field of football. Those aren't the ones we hear about it, lately, and the stories of the injured, the suicides, and the downtrodden will continue until something is done about it.
As it is, that is not the main reason of my writing today. In today's age, from the start of the football careers at an early age, people know what they are getting into. Further along, if they are lucky enough, a few may end up making a professional career of this chosen field. And that's where the line needs to be drawn on safety. Football, by nature, is a barbaric sport. The power, the speed, and the brutality are all what make football an entertaining sport. At the same time, it is a chosen career and the people signing up for it certainly know the risks involved when they go down this path.
But Jason, every job needs safety measures in place. I agree, I certainly do, but at what point will it dissolve the nature of the game and people stop watching? Many jobs involve risks and while people are always trying to improve conditions, at what point do the improvements start taking away from the goal at hand? People choose to enter the military full well knowing the risk and we do what we can to take care of them. Do the people want rubber bullets to serve and protect? While that would be all well and dandy, it would defeat the purpose.
I am in no way insinuating that playing football is like war. I am simply saying that people know what the risks are when entering certain careers. Miners, Police Officers, Fire Fighters, and countless other jobs involve necessarily risks to provide the quality job that is deserved. In football, equipment standards are being raised and certain on the field rules I certainly agree with. A company needs to find ways to protect its assets all while trying to provide an entertaining final product (in football, at least). It's time for players to take responsibility for this fact and I believe they are working towards it with the scientific studies of concussions and the growing pensions for former players.
If things don't change on that end, though, to what extent will the people that govern the NFL go to to protect the players? At what cost will they impose to keep the integrity of the game intact all while still providing a finished product? These are questions that I can't answer. Safety is important, yes, but will people still be watching in 10 years? In 20 years? Will the NFL eventually go the way of Gladiators and simply be a history lesson in barbarianism? Only time will tell, but if the road continues in this direction, will people keep watching players earning 10 million a year to simply play flag football? I don't think so...