President Barack Obama is the latest high-ranking individual to question the safety of football, but it's been a hot topic long before that.
Over the past couple years, the NFL has tried to take steps to prevent "concussions" by limiting what defenders can do. Essentially, they've tried to take big hits out of the game.
That obviously hasn't sat well with players on defense linebackers, safeties, etc. who are trying to make a living stopping offenses from gaining yards and scoring points. One linebacker, Ravens' Bernard Pollard, said today that with the way things are trending in the NFL, it may not be around in 30 years. Fans will lose interest in a game that has changed too much than what they fell in love with.
Former Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson is living proof that concussions and the overall physical nature of football has long lasting health effects. Johnson has been a part of tests, and has both written and spoken out about the dangers that come along with football, specifically brain damage. He himself suffers from post-concussion syndrome.
But does he fear for the future of the game?
"No, I don't," Johnson said on Felger and Mazz, in New Orleans for the Super Bowl. "I think the only thing- here's my involvement: I've been thinking about this a lot on my drive up here today. All I ever wanted is for guys to know the risk. What we always say is the blanket statement: football is inherently a dangerous game. We get that. But you know what we know now, that nobody is quite saying it like this: football can cause brain damage. End of story. You can get brain disease from playing football. End of story. Now that everybody knows that, go do what you want to do. Now you know all the risk.
"People say, 'Ted back in the day, come on, you knew the risk. You knew what you were getting into. You signed up for that.' I did to a point. I knew I could tear my bicep, all the things I could identify with that I've seen happen to other guys, I get that. No one ever told me that playing football could potentially lead to having brain damage or brain disease, now that we know it's called CTE."
But Johnson thinks the league is going too far, or doing the wrong things to help the issue. It's not wide receivers taking on huge hits that are ending up with debilitating post-concussion symptoms. It's the ones on the lines doing normal football things, or making normal hits over, and over, and over.
But is there anything those players can do about it? That's the name of the game. And according to Johnson, going to the coaches about it, or being labeled as a guy who can't go in there and take the hits, will get you out of a job fast. After all, coaches have all the say.
"The thing about football that makes it so unique is that it's a coaches league. They have the power. It's not like I'm at Orlando and Dwight Howard can get Stan Van Gundy fired. I can't get my coaches fired. They have all the power. So there's an abuse of power there. The system is set up so that they have an abuse of power, and it's not fair for the guys when a coach can have that much power over if a guy plays or doesn't play, and use his power as leverage to get him out there maybe before he should be ready to play."