Player Safety Should Be NFL’s Number One Priority

By Sam Stack, Print Editor-in-Chief

 //Imagine being promised twenty dollars, but then right before you received that money you were told it wasn’t coming. That’s largely what Carolina Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newton is feeling: he’s been promised safety and now doesn’t feel safe after multiple uncalled for and blindsided hits.

   Throughout the season, Newton, including many of his counterparts in the league, have been taking a beating from opposing defenders, many of the hits illegal and after the play. Yet penalties have been a shortcoming and Newton decided after week 8 to speak out at his post-game press conference.

   “It’s not fun. It’s really taking the fun out of the game for me. Honestly, it really is. At times, I don’t even feel safe. Enough is enough,” Newton said to the media. “Hits to the head, that’s one thing, but when you’re not protected in the pocket, that’s another thing.”

   Newton has been scrutinized by much of the media in the past for things he’s said or done but this is something that he should get support on. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the rest of the NFL have refused to acknowledge how bad the concussion situation has become along with player safety.

   While the NFL and former NFL players are working out a settlement for players who were diagnosed with CTE, a brain disease caused by chronic head trauma, the deal has many loopholes and may not reach out to all those affected.

   The NFL only decided to have concussion protocol after an overwhelming amount of evidence was thrown in their face.

   To the owners and Commissioner, it’s about the money, and when the best players are out on the field, that is when the most profit is coming.

   Newton himself suffered a concussion this season after taking a monstrous helmet to helmet hit. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s had a couple more undiagnosed ones that he just played through.

   But you heard it from him, while getting hit to the head is one thing, he just doesn’t feel protected. And with a look at the tape, it’s evident. He’s not being tackled with the ball while making a football move; Newton is getting blindsided long after he releases the ball or taking blatant helmet to helmet hits.

   There just needs to be more discipline for players in the NFL who make these types of hits. It’s not safe for both parties involved in the tackles. Penalty flags need to be more frequent than they already are, as well as fines, and those fines have to be for the right things.

   Fines seem to be way more frequent for players who are wearing bright cleats, or celebrating a touchdown with their helmet off, or in Pittsburgh Steelers’ running back DeAngelo Williams case, wearing pink extensions in his hair for breast cancer awareness.

   I see more fines for things like that than actual dirty hits. The only time I hear about fines being brought out for dirty hits is when the hit is talked about by the media and almost forcing the NFL to set a fine because it looks good for Public Relations.

   Newton also demanded in his post-game presser to talk with Goodell himself. That did happen and Newton actually said it went well. But here’s what’s iffy to me about that. Things can be said so easily to please someone, but to actually carry those things out is a whole nother story.

   I’ll give credit to Goodell on one thing, he’s extremely good at saying things to the media then not carrying out those promises at all. Seems like he should get a job in politics.

   This has been going on for too long, it’s time for the NFL to get its priorities straight. The players on the field are not safe and this has to be number one on the to-do list. If head injuries and a lack of safety continue at this rate, the NFL will go from the most popular sport in the US to a dying sport.

   There needs to be more discipline for players with intentions of making big hits. Once there is larger sense of safety for players in the NFL, things can start to change.    

   Football itself is a very violent sport, but steps can be made to make it at least playable, and these steps need to be taken.

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