Player safety is a growing concern in the NFL, as important players are increasingly landing on the NFL injury report we are realizing the impact of on-field contact, even after playing days are over.
A generation of current players that likely grew up watching and idolizing notorious heavy hitters like Lawrence Taylor, Ray Lewis and Troy Polamalu are currently coming under fire for unnecessary roughness and helmet-to-helmet contact that could potentially cause long-term physical damage.
The NFL is sending a message of its own to current players like Ndamukong Suh and Redskins’ Brandon Meriweather – who in Week 7 earned a 2 game suspension for hits on Bears’ Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall, costing him over $141,000 in game pay. The hit on Jeffery can be seen to the left.
“Guys like that really don’t understand that there is life after football,” Marshall said of Meriweather, via the Chicago Tribune.
Why Avoiding The Big Hit Is About More Than Dodging The NFL Injury Report
I’ve come to the conclusion that the understanding that there IS life after football is something that must be, but seemingly has not been, taught to the game’s youngest players.
Players that grew up watching hardest hit highlights on SportsCenter likely aspired to one day make the highlight reel themselves. In addition, those who think it’s just part of the game may not come around so easily.
Case in point: Brandon Meriweather has been fined over $275,000 since 2010 for dangerous hits, including a $42,000 fine for a hit on Green Bay’s Eddie Lacy in Week 2 of this season. This will be his first suspension, a message the League hopes will get through and make a difference in Meriweather’s playing style.
Does It Go Deeper Than The NFL Injury Report?
Despite not having an “official” injury report, athletes are realizing the true impact of these plays at the high school and college levels of the game as well.
This past summer, high school cornerback Deantre Turman died from a broken neck sustained during a tackle he made this preseason. While the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research reports that an average of fewer than three boys per year have died playing high school football in the last decade, that’s still far too many in my opinion.
What Can Be Done Moving Forward?
The NFL and surrounding sports media have done a good job of changing the messaging around these plays, placing greater emphasis on the health and safety of its athletes in an effort to change players’ outlook and behavior. Setting this example at the game’s highest level of competition is a necessary step in affecting play even among football’s youngest athletes.
With continued enforcement and medical research, I’m hopeful that players and coaches from the NFL all the way down to Pee Wee football will grow to understand, respect and teach the importance of player safety even more than they do now. Heads Up Football is doing their part in making sure this problem doesn’t become an epidemic, and the NFL injury report doesn’t become something players have to worry about after they retire.
Check out the video above from Heads Up and Penn State Head Coach Bill O’Brien to find out more about their efforts. What else do you think can be done to ensure player safety?