NFL Can Solve Concussion Problem But Isn’t

The new NFL logo went into use at the 2008 draft.

Now that the NFL concussion problem has gotten the attention of PBS’ Frontline tv news documentary program newsletterplease

its time for this multi-billion-dollar per year business to do the simple and necessary steps required to reduce dangerous head injuries to its players. They need to do so now before their neglect on this subject becomes a financial and legal liability that will eventually lead to the elimination of the game we love.

In “League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis” Frontline showed that the biggest sports league in the world has knowingly sent too many players into retirement with what appear to be permanent brain injuries.

//www.youtube.com/embed/

As I wrote in a June 2012 blog “NFL Concussion Problem is Solvable” one of the steps the NFL could take right now, this year is to put padding on the outside of the hard-shell helmets their players wear. It’s been done before by at least two players in the 1990s.

Buffalo Bill Mark Kelso padded his helmet.

Buffalo Bill Mark Kelso padded his helmet.

Buffalo’s Mark Kelso was no bench-warming back-up player. He wore his padded helmet while forging a 7 year NFL career and playing in four Super Bowls.

Steve Wallace in his "Cone helmet"

Steve Wallace in his “Cone helmet”

San Francisco 49ers offensive tackle Steve Wallace wore a foam cap. He was good enough to play in a Pro Bowl. Why don’t players protect themselves by wearing these easily manufactured foam caps on their hard-shell helmets? Because they can. Players can choose to do this on their own without the league stepping in. They don’t because too many of them think they make you look bad, or geeky, nerdy, or uncool. It’s such a sad statement in our society the clothing appearance is more important than the risk of life long medical disability.

The next question is why doesn’t the NFL require the foam padding on the outside of the helmets? It’s a mystery. Though you can guess it has something to do with style, appearance, aesthetics.

There is still more they can do. During the last off-season the NFL announced that it would require its players to start wearing padding in the football pants, in particular, over their knees. This is a huge step. Just think of how many times we’ve seen a player knocked senseless while blocking or tackling and inadvertently being kicked in the head by another players knee. It happens all the time. Common sense would presume that a pad on the knee and a thin pad on the players helmet would do a lot less neurological damage than a hard knee smashing into a head covered by a hard-shell helmet. The problem is the NFL delayed this change, the mandatory padding, until 2014. It’s hard to imagine why; especially when at the time of the announced change more than 2000 thousand former players had joined in a class action lawsuit against the NFL claiming damages from head trauma during their playing years continued to plague them into retirement.  The lawsuit was settled in August 2013 for $765-million and a guarantee of lifetime medical insurance coverage.

NFL Referees have increasingly thrown flags for helmet hits. The league has also increased the frequency and amount of fines it assesses players every week for those same helmet hits. And I applaud such action.

I am not among the foolish whiners who claim their taking away what we love best about this vicious game, the big hard hits. For the past 20-30 years players have not tackled properly. They fly at the ball carriers, usually with their head down, and essentially “push” them as hard as they can hoping the guy with the ball falls down. (I know I’m simplifying…bear with me) But watch the old, I mean 1960s-old NFL Films highlight reels of Tommy Nobis, Dick Butkis, Chuck Bednarick, Ray Nitschke, Deacon Jones. These Hall of Famers and all others at that time didn’t lower their heads and run into the ball carrier. They kept their heads up to see. They collided with the runner and they wrapped their arms around, and lifted and drove backwards with their legs. This is how I was taught how to tackle at Bellevue, Washington’s Olde Jr High, and then Sammamish High School in 1976-1982. In watching those old highlight films I challenge you to tell me they didn’t hit and tackle hard, and that those hits were exciting. They were savage and brutal. They were great. A perfectly executed hit-wrap-lift-and drive tackle is still more exciting to me then some head collision.

Teaching how to tackle properly again and added padding on the outside of helmets and over the players knees can only help. And it better. Because in our litigious society increasing evidence of repeated concussion trauma and its life time effects on the players will only lead to the inevitable legislative control and eventual loss of the great game of football.

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Seahawks vs 49ers is Gonna Be Great!

Seahawks logo

Though written in March of 2013 this post is still very timely.

The rivalry between the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers has gone from simmer, to slow boil, to 3rd degree- “Oh My God THAT’s HOT!” burn in the past week. And isn’t it just exceedingly fun to watch? I’m lovin’ it. And what’s most exciting is that it’s likely to last for many, many years. All the evidence shows that this will push historical rivalries for significance. We’re talking Yankees vs Red Sox, Duke-North Carolina, Ohio State vs Michigan,  Steelers vs the Raiders in the 70s, Redskins vs Cowboys, Celtics- Lakers, Ali-Frazier. Welcome to Seattle! Home of the NFL Universe. Folks, it’s here.

English: Picture of the 12th Man Flag at Centu...

What made the rivalries of yesteryear so darn compelling were two things. First, and perhaps most important, the teams were always good….championship level good. Second, THEY HATED EACH OTHER. Does anyone hate each other more in big-time sports right now than

English: Head Coach Pete Carroll leads his Uni...

Pete Carroll led his University of Southern California Trojans football team

Seahawks Head Coach Pete Carroll and Niner’s Head coach Jim Harbaugh?

Head coach Jim Harbaugh at the 2010 Stanford f...

Head coach Jim Harbaugh at the 2010 Stanford football open house

Not based on the evidence that we’ve seen. From the time when Carroll was at USC and Harbaugh was at Stanford and Carroll greeted the Cardinal coach with a not-so-politic “What’s your deal?” after Harbaugh had his team go for 2-points late in a blow-out win over the Trojans to last October when Harbaugh complained to the NFL about that Seahawk cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner were too physical with his receivers.

As we all know the Seahawks were 30-seconds away from meeting the 49ers in the NFC Championship game this past season with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line; a trip won by S.F. Then the team from the Bay area came oh-so-close to winning the league championship and establishing themselves as a potential dynasty.

This week the rivalry was brought back to the nation’s attention when Seattle traded for elite Minnesota wide receiver-Kick Returner Percy Harvin only to be equalled in the headlines by San Francisco trading for Pro Bowl receiver Anquan Bolden of the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens. Fortunately for Hawk’s fans Seattle came back again yesterday by signing free agent defensive-end Cliff Avril to help bolster the team’s greatest need; an improved pass rush. Important to note that while the Hawk’s achilles heel in the past season, and projecting to the coming season, was their pass rush, they still managed to lead the league defensively in fewest points allowed.

After the trade of the 1st round and 7th round draft picks in the upcoming NFL Draft for Harvin, Seattle stills owns 8 picks in the April allotment of college talent. But San Francisco has 14 picks, five returning Pro Bowlers and plenty of cash to acquire more free agent help.

Seattle has Russell Wilson; one of the most exciting young quarterbacks to come into the league in years. S.F. has Colin Kaepernick; one of the most exciting young quarterbacks to come into the league in years. Seattle has Marshawn Lynch one of the best running backs in the league. S.F. has Frank Gore; one of the best running backs in the league, and probably a future Hall of Famer. They both have stout defenses. And their two combative coaches both preach a grind it out, smash-mouth style of football. S.F. has won the NFC West each of the past two years. Seattle won it before that. And both teams have among the youngest rosters in the National Football League. So, as excellent as both teams are. They ought to be excellent for years to come.

After this week’s player acquisitions odds-makers have installed Seattle and San Francisco as co-favorites to win this next year’s Super Bowl. And being in the same division they’ll always play each other twice each season. The fact that S.F. is the team that’s geographically closest to the far-away Northwest outpost called Seattle is just the cherry on top of the Sundae.

Woody Hayes

Woody Hayes

Bo Schembechler vs Woody Hayes.

English: Los Angeles Lakers Magic Johnson and ...

Bird vs Magic.

Richard Petty 1984 Photo By Ted Van Pelt

Richard Petty 1984

Richard Petty vs Cale Yarborough. Alydar vs Affirmed.  We’re talking about this kind of historical rivalry, and it’s staring us in the face.

NY - Long Island - Belmont Park - Affirmed

NY – Long Island – Belmont Park – Affirmed

It’s absolutely delicious for any sports fan. But for the long-suffering fans of Seattle it’s a banquet for a starving man. Thank you Paul Allen for the hasty decision to fire Jim Mora. Thank you Pete Carroll and GM John Schneider for the wisdom and the guts to go after Wilson. And thank you to Seattle tax payers for funding CenturyLink field‘s construction.

I can’t wait, though it’s still 6-months away. I just renewed my Seahawk season tickets for next season. My company Total Broadcasting Service will be giving some of them away, again. I’m predicting a pretty fantastic ride.

Thanks for visiting. Comments are welcome.

Seattle Sports Doldrums. Time to get Mad.

 

 

 

English: The top of the Space Needle in Seattl...

 

 

 

A weekend of ineptitude from the Seattle Seahawks and the Seattle Mariners has me frustrated and wanting to take a pound of flesh from some of the teams administrators.

 

 

 

The Seattle Mariners wrap up another losing season in the next three days with a young team that has some promise, but none of it in the vicinity of an acceptable Major League offense. Our swabbies were swept in Oakland the past three games by an equally young Athletics team. The Athletics youth is just about the only resemblance they bear to our Northwest 9. Oakland will play in the American league playoffs, probably as a Wildcard entrant. But given they possess the best record in baseball since the start of June they can be counted on to make some noise.

 

 

 

The Mariner’s too have had a better second-half of the season than they had in the first half. Since July 5 Seattle actually has a winning record at 38-37; compared to a miserable 35-49 in the first half. But as reporter Geoff Baker writes in this morning’s Seattle Times the league worst offense has only gotten worse, scoring just 3.63 runs per game compared to 3.87. It’s a familiar story too many Northwest baseball fans have become used to. Seattle has been at the bottom of the Major League offensive categories for 4 straight years. Their losing record reflecting accordingly.

 

 

 

What’s sad is during this time they’ve possessed arguably the best pitcher in the American League in Felix Hernandez. During this time Hernandez has won a Cy Young Award, finished second in the voting another year, and is likely to be among the top 5 vote getters again this year. Seattle’s other pitching has been less impressive but good enough were the offense not so completely inadequate.

 

 

 

First Baseman Justin Smoak is an unquestioned failure. He has blown up his batting average over the past two weeks with some solid hitting; but for the season that’s only lifted his average to a woeful .214 with 19 home runs and 50-something RBI (no I’m not looking up the exact number. What’s the difference between 51 and 59?). My only hesitation in making this proclamation is that outfielder Michael Saunders has rectified his carrier with a .250 average and 19 homers this season. I would have written him off before the season after he’d managed more yawns than thrills during parts of four seasons with the Mariner’s prior to this season. But seriously, how excited should we be about a fourth year player who’s best season is .250 with 19 home runs? At best he’s a fourth outfielder on a good team.

 

 

 

The number of disappointing Mariners doesn’t stop with Smoak and Saunders. Dustin Ackley, Mike Carp, Franklin Gutierrez, Casper Wells, Brendan Ryan, and Miguel Olivo arte all hitting what used to be considered pathetic offensive numbers. Seattle not only doesn’t have a .300 hitter this season. They don’t have a .290 or .280 hitter. They have catcher John Jaso as a part-time player hitting .277 as the only representative north of .260.

 

 

 

As we watch the playoffs this October with young American League teams like the A’s and Orioles competing for a championship, devoid of a Seattle representative for an 11th consecutive year, let’s forget the pathetic cliche` “wait until next year”. Next year won’t be any better if Mariner management doesn’t get its act together and throw out some of the young experiments that didn’t work. Specifically any of Seattle’s outfielders could be a solid forth outfielder. The rest can be discarded. We need a whole new outfield. One that can hit. Smoak should also be shown the door in favor of a 1st baseman that can hit for power and at-least a respectable average.

 

 

 

Safeco Field in Seattle.

Safeco Field in Seattle.

 

And Mariner management needs to do three more things unrelated to on field personnel. Chuck Armstrong needs to go as Mariner President. Outfield fences need to be moved in. And a policy to keep the Safeco Field roof closed unless it’s sunny and 60+ degrees needs to be established. Everyone from Ken Griffey Junior to Jesus Montero knows the ball carries better with the roof closed. And it’s warmer, for better fan comfort.

 

 

 

Speaking of missed opportunities. We’re watching a big one with the Seattle Seahawks this season. The Seahawks possess a championship-caliber defense, running game and special teams. All three of those areas of the team have performed spectacularly in the teams first four games. And yet all the team could manage was a 2-2 record that’s one controversial call away from being 1-3.

 

 

 

An active volcano, Mount Rainier is one of thr...

 

It was acknowledged by everyone that the choice to go with Russell Wilson at quarterback to start the year would require some sacrifice while the young player grows into an NFL caliber QB. Coach Pete Carroll was and is enthralled with the potential of his 5′ 10″ third round draft choice. But here is one thing Carroll seems to have ignored, Matt Flynn is young and loaded with potential too. But Flynn has something Wilson doesn’t…four years in the NFL. Flynn also has a Super Bowl ring, and an NCAA National Championship. Put those two together, along with some other factors, and what do you have? A WINNER. Matt Flynn is a proven winner. Having him stand on the sidelines while Wilson slowly learns his craft is a waste of the other very talented aspects of this Seahawk team.

 

English: Green Bay Packers back-up quarterback...

Quarterback Matt Flynn 

 

The argument that Wilson gives Seattle a better chance to win in the long run is simply stupid since Flynn too possesses plenty of attributes that would lead a reasonable football fans to conclude his growth is currently ahead of Wilson’s and could potentially be great too.

 

 

 

There is no question Wilson is an outstanding young man worthy of respect and praise. But with the worst passing attack in the NFL, a-quarter of the season is long enough to determine that the Seahawks need better play at quarterback right now or they could blow a season the is rife with promise and potential. Flynn is just as capable of handing the ball to Marshawn Lynch as Wilson, he can see and read the field better, and he CAN throw the ball extremely accurately according to most observers.

 

 

 

Please Pete Carroll; make the change. Install Flynn as the starter this week against Carolina. A trip all the way across the U.S. is tough enough. Tougher still, when you’re a rookie. It’s time to see Matt Flynn.

 

 

 

Thanks. I had to get that off my chest.

 

 

 

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NFL Concussion Problem is Solvable

This blog was written in June 2012 but is still timely, especially following the previous weekend’s games in which a number of key players including Michael Vick and Jay Cutler were lost to concussion.

More than 2000 NFL players filed a lawsuit against the league Thursday over the growing issue of concussions, the injuries derived from them, and the National Football League’s handling of them in the past. These players claim long-term neurological damage from their time playing football. I’ve thought for years how this can be largely solved by doing something that has already been done.

Buffalo Bill Mark Kelso padded his helmet.

Buffalo Bill Mark Kelso padded his helmet.

It’s not your imagination if the helmet being worn by former Buffalo Bills Safety Mark Kelso looks a little larger than a normal football players helmet. Look at it closely and you can see Kelso had a foam padding created as a shell for the top of the head-gear. And Kelso was no slouch player. He played seven years for the Bills from 1986 to 1993, and started in four Super Bowls. Kelso began wearing the cap after…wait for it…a concussion.

And Kelso wasn’t the only one to show wisdom. Rather than give in to the vanity of thinking the cap makes the helmet too big and look funny, San Francisco 49er offensive tackle Steve Wallace wore a foam cap on his helmet too.

Steve Wallace in his "Cone helmet"

Steve Wallace in his “Cone helmet”

And Wallace played in a Pro Bowl.

The argument against these big helmets has come from the players. Not the NFL. And to bitch about the aesthetics of something that could significantly increase your own safety, for the rest of your life, is just plain silly. It’s vanity. Besides, if ALL the players are wearing the same larger helmets you won’t look odd. You’d look odd not wearing one.

The player’s lawsuit is the biggest one ever filed in sports. In all likelihood there will be a settlement for hundreds of millions of dollars and it will never go to court. Which is probably good for the players since they are the ones refusing to wear the foam caps which have been available for them to wear for more than 20 years. Most players also refuse to wear knee pads in their pants. They claim the knee and thigh pads slow them down, and don’t protect their legs much. However much they protect their legs, they are likely to protect another players head considerably. Or, have you not seen dozens of players knocked out of games over the years by taking an inadvertent knee to the head?

Fortunately the league has mandated that all players begin wearing knee and thigh pads again beginning in the 2013 season. Why they’re waiting that extra season makes no sense to me. They could start protecting players immediately.

Lastly Commissioner Roger Goodell should continue to crack down on helmet to helmet hits. Players need to be reminded it’s not the proper, or sure way of tackling anyway. Look at NFL Films clips from the 60s and 70s. You don’t see a lot of head shots. Tackles were made in a less vicious way. But they were still excitingly violent. I was taught to plant my facemask squarely in the ball-carriers chest and to wrap him up. Watch Dick Butkis, Merlin Olson, Jack Lambert, Mean Joe Green, Mel Blount, Ronnie Lott or any of the All-Timers. They weren’t head hunters. They were superb defensive tacklers.

It’s always frustrating when a problem persists despite answers being readily available. The NFL didn’t become a multi-billion dollar industry by being stupid. Though they will be if they don’t institute these simple and available solutions. Failing to do so in years to come would leave the league criminally negligent.

Thanks for visiting. Comments are welcome.

Seahawks will be in the playoff race!

By the time late December rolls around Seattle Seahawk fans will once again be dreaming sweet dreams of playoffs, and victories and Super Bowls. All the Pete Carroll

Seattle Seahawks

Seattle Seahawks return from the dead

detractors will be silenced and Tavaris Jackson will have some people wondering if HE shouldn’t be our quarterback of the future. The Seahawks will be on a five game winning streak, and have a winning record. And if you believe that…you’re not a dreamer…just a knowledgable football fan.

Yesterday’s surprising win over the playoff bound Baltimore Ravens didn’t make me delirious. There is really good cause to predict that the 3-6 Seattle football team will reverse its thus far lackluster season and become a playoff contender. Let’s look at the evidence.

  • In the past 7 games Hawks are an unremarkable, but not embarrassing 3-4
  • They should be 4-3 having had the Cleveland game stolen from them by a bad officiating call that took away a late game touchdown.
  • They lost two of their last four losses by a combined 5 points.
  • They’ve been competitive in every game.
  • They beat a playoff bound NY Giants team in New York.
  • They beat division leader Baltimore one week after the Ravens beat the defending AFC Champion Steelers in Pittsburgh.
  • The Seahawk defense has been stout all year.
  • The Seattle offense is improving in exactly the areas in which it needs to improve.
And, the number one reason for my optimism that the Seahawks can become playoff contenders by the week before Christmas…their schedule. Seattle plays its next four games against teams with an equal or worse record and three of them are at home. Seattle’s schedule gets considerably easier from this point forward. Seattle plays four of its last seven games at home at CenturyLink Field (still doesn’t feel right calling it that). They play two of the next four games against the St. Louis Rams, who have won only 2 games this season. After next weeks trip to St. Louis the Washington Redskins travel across country with their losing record, and Mike Shanahan‘s job slipping from his fingertips. Then on a Thursday night primetime game when the Seattle sellout crowd will be at its most fever pitch the 3-6 Philadelphia Eagles and Michael Vick come to town. I am quite certain that the Puget Sound’s dog loving, liberal protest-loving, environmentalist wacko population will rain some seriously bad karma down on the Philly QB, with a history of animal abuse. And the Seahawks defense will make Vick’s erratic throwing pay big dividends for the home team, with turnovers. Following Philadelphia the Hawks will be riding a four game losing streak and will be hosting the Rams. They won’t lose THAT game.
That takes us to late December; December 18th specifically. On that date Seattle will be in Chicago playing the increasingly tough Bears. And it WILL BE COLD!!! I do expect Seattle’s win streak and playoff hopes to end in the Windy City. But if they don’t….if they somehow manage to pull that game out of their hats…well…Seattle could run the table. The 49ers will be in Seattle the next week, having long ago clinched the division crown. Then they close the season in Arizona. Win!
Ultimately though I don’t think Seattle will make the playoffs, I do think they can make the late season interesting since they now seem to know how to run the football, and Jackson will continue to play at a level that will compare reasonably well with the Matt Hasselback of the past couple years. And having something to cheer for late in any sports season in Seattle is a Christmas present no matter what the time of year.
Go HAWKS!
11/19/11- Since writing this post the Seahawks have lost the right side of their line. It doesn’t change my opinion. Since starting right guard John Moffitt and starting right tackle James Carpenter were declared out for the year the Seahawks have received news of the Rams losing a starting tackle and another cornerback. The Rams have 9 count ’em, NINE cornerbacks on the injured list this year. And as was pointed out above the Seahawks play the Rams twice in the next four games.
Since the blog was originally posted it’s also been revealed that Eagles quarterback Michael Vick has cracked ribs. Seattle plays Vick and the 3-6 Eagles in 2 weeks.
Seattle WILL be in the playoff race four weeks from now riding a five game winning streak. Then who knows…
Optimism beats pessimism.
11/20/11- One down, three to go. Did you see anything today that would lead you to believe St. Louis could beat Seattle when they come northwest December 11? Nope. So with great confidence in that game the Seahawks still need to win home games against a 3-7 Redskins team, and a 3-6 Eagles. I may be crazy but I think the 4-6 Hawks can beat those teams, both of whom are flying all the way across the country.
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