Photo: Wikimedia Commons
A lot of people think the NFL faces a serious existential threat because of a growing body of evidence that the violence of the game causes long-term brain damage.Ravens safety Bernard Pollard also says the NFL is at risk, but for a different reason.
He told Clark Judge of CBS Sports that fans are eventually going to stop watching if the league continues to try and change the game:
“30 years from now, I don’t think it will be in existence. I could be wrong. It’s just my opinion, but I think with the direction things are going — where they [NFL rules makers] want to lighten up, and they’re throwing flags and everything else — there’s going to come a point where fans are going to get fed up with it.
“Guys are getting fined, and they’re talking about, ‘Let’s take away the strike zone’ and ‘Take the pads off’ or ‘Take the helmets off.’ It’s going to be a thing where fans aren’t going to want to watch it anymore.”
It’s a curious theory, but it’s not all that surprising coming from Pollard, who has a reputation for big hits. In the AFC title game against the Patriots, he got a personal foul penalty before laying this vicious blow on Stevan Ridley and knocking him out cold:
Pollard also implied that he thinks someone is going to die on the field one day:
“The league is trying to move in the right direction [with player safety], but, at the same time, [coaches] want bigger, stronger and faster year in and year out. And that means you’re going to keep getting big hits and concussions and blown-out knees. The only thing I’m waiting for … and, Lord, I hope it doesn’t happen … is a guy dying on the field. We’ve had everything else happen there except for a death. We understand what we signed up for, and it sucks.”
The bigger picture is this: The NFL needs to adapt. It’s becoming increasingly clear that the game itself is a long-term health risk, and it needs to be tweaked if the sport is going to be sustainable over the long haul.
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